If you’ve recently started a diet to shed those extra quarantine pounds you put on stress eating, you won’t want to miss the Belgian gross-out Hotel Poseidon. You may never eat again after sitting through this movie’s relentless assault of rotten foods, mildewy surroundings, and caked-on grime. Divine may have been awarded “Filthiest Person Alive” in 1972 but a new challenger has entered the ring. Written and directed by Stefan Lernous, Hotel Poseidon is a nauseating journey through the life of a person in the grips of a sickening depression (I think). If there was ever a film that could bring a bed bug infestation into your home just from watching it, it’s this one.
Dave (Tom Vermeir) is the acting manager of the Hotel Poseidon. What he manages, however, I’m not exactly sure. The hotel was built by his father and was, no doubt, a luxury hotel in its day but it has fallen into disrepair. Heck, “disrepair” doesn’t even begin to describe the condition this place is in. There is fungus on the walls, mold on every available surface space, and garbage lining the floor like someone fired a confetti cannon of filth every hour, on the hour. You can practically smell this movie 🤢
Everyone around Dave is impressively despicable. Included among them are freeloaders living in the derelict building, his overbearing mother (Tania Van der Sanden), a woman named Erika (Ruth Becquart) who constantly taunts him with sexual advances, and Jacki (Dominique Van Malder) who is using the space to hold a deranged social event that includes a full buffet, and a live autopsy. Dave bounces from room to room, barely aware of what is happening around him and seemingly unaffected by his claustrophobic confines. It’s hard to believe that anyone would voluntarily stay at the Hotel Poseidon in its current condition but Dave is surprised with a new guest named Nora (Anneke Sluiters) who- you won’t believe this- isn’t covered in dirt from head to toe. Her appearance in the story doesn’t exactly jumpstart Dave’s return to polite society but it is, in its own disgusting way, the beginning of his semi-introspective walkabout around the hotel.
It can be hard to watch a movie like Hotel Poseidon. First, you have to get over the shock of its repulsive atmosphere and its “dregs of society” cast of characters. And if that’s not enough, you then have to figure out what the hell you’re looking at. It’s pretty clear early on that Dave is approaching rock bottom, although I can’t imagine what his life would look like if it got any worse. He’s depressed, and he’s wallowing in it. When I watch a movie like Hotel Poseidon I like to imagine that what I’m looking at is an extreme exaggeration. The dial on its disgusting meter has been turned up to eleven, but it’s a cinematic facade. in reality, The Hotel Poseidonis likely sitting somewhere between a New York slum and a squatter’s hovel. The stomach-turning environment and the chaotic world clawing at him is what it feels like to be Dave.
Dave’s life is deeply unenviable, but it’s supposed to be! You’re supposed to feel smothered, and disgusted, and anxious. And oh my does Stefan Lernous bring those emotions to the forefront like a conductor directing an orchestra of anxiety. Full credit to the makeup department, customers, and set decorators as well. The Hotel Poseidon doesn’t just feel lived-in, it feels given-up in. It’s the kind of place where aspirations go to die a slow, drawn-out death. Where sunlight is just a memory, and every living thing crawling its corridors is lucky to be alive. Everyone even comes painted in various shades of malnourishment and their own wardrobe of woe. Dave‘s is particularly disgusting because he’s tried (for the first time in forever) to take pride in his appearance…and let’s just say that his best is nowhere close to your worst.
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you right now. I have no idea how to rate this movie. It grossed me out from start to finish, which wasn’t exactly something I “enjoyed” (one tick for the negative column) but I’m sure that was the goal and it was very effective (one tick for the positive column?). I laughed out loud at its absurdity (positive) but I also had to choke back vomit once or twice (negative?). The world Hotel Poseidon exists in is uncomfortably hopeless, and if you’ve ever been to that place yourself you’ll immediately recognize its suffocating grip.
“If there was ever a film that could bring a bed bug infestation into your home just from watching it, it’s Hotel Poseidon“
It’s hard to recommend a movie like Hotel Poseidon the same way you’d recommend Lost Highwayto a friend but it is an experience. It’s like watching a film in 4D VR without having to put on a headset or take a whiff of your Odorama Scratch ‘N’ Sniff card. Hotel Poseidon stings the nostrils, gives you goosebumps, and activates your gag reflex without any extra help. If you’ve ever wanted to know what depression feels like, just drop a quarter in Hotel Poseidon‘s coin slot and let its magic fingers carry you into a land of agitation and unease.
Stefan Lernous’ Hotel Poseidon celebrated its International Premiere at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival, as part of the festival’s Cheval Noir program. Click HERE to follow all our festival coverage and be sure to let us know if you would ever stay in a hotel that is one step up from the city landfill over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.