19 Doors (2011) – By Tiffany Apan

I always say that I love old horror movies. I love the works of Hitchcock and Serling. I’m also of the opinion that Vincent Price could pretty much never go wrong and never fail to really creep a person out without really trying. I very much love the old formula of original horror intended to simply scare and offer a creepy atmosphere to back up the scares. There was nothing over the top in terms of special effects or exploitation of gore and the female anatomy. Just a good, character driven plot with many twists and turns and sometimes a happy ending while often times, a not so happy ending. While films containing more exploitive elements can be entertaining, I always find a certain wonderful charm to the style of the old films. This is especially so when those older styles are put into a more modern context. So you can imagine my delight when 19 Doors went into my DVD player.

19 Doors is a screenplay written by Jacqueline Druga and directed by Bruce Koehler that tells the story of a young writer by the name of Grace Mitchell (portrayed by Natalie Bail) who, by the suggestion of her producer (Bryan Koehler), moves into an old abandoned hotel to serve as a means of inspiration for her new screenplay. There is an open bar/restaurant area in the lower level of the hotel and of course, the locals know the story of The Vixen who, back in the 1950s, would lure men up to her room and brutally murder them. Local legend states that The Vixen (who also went by Liz) was killed as she was arrested upon being captured by police. As Grace stays in the hotel and attempts to write the screenplay, things begin to ‘go bump in the night.’ It becomes clear that there are restless spirits inhabiting the hotel. But as the film progresses, one begins to question whether it’s the hotel or Grace’s own descent into madness…or possibly both…?

Like many of the old horror films of decades past, every character in 19 Doors has some type of odd and interesting little quirk that adds to the already off-centered tone. For the most part, the film has some pretty strong actors. I particularly enjoyed Norm Wash in the role of Father Pat and Catrina Rogers as Katy. Lake Asbury also added a little mystery and spice as Liz. The location of the Lyndora Hotel is slightly reminiscent of the bed and breakfast in Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and Bates Motel in “Psycho” (another Hitchcock classic). The production value and quality make a wonderfully creepy atmosphere with some simple yet effective lighting effects. The script and storyline itself will leave you wondering what’s going to happen next right up until the very end while John Denney’s score compliments it rather well. ‘Simple but effective’ seemed to be the name of the game with the filmmakers and Retro Media and they pulled it off well.

Any criticism I have is very minor: Grace’s teenaged daughter, Eva (portrayed by Caitline O’Connor), looks more like she should be Grace’s younger sister instead of her daughter (in other words, Natalie Bail doesn’t appear old enough to have a teenaged daughter unless she gave birth to her between the ages of 5 and 12). At times, the pacing is a little slow and there are points in the film where the score drowns out some of the dialogue. But neither occurs very often nor is either of the three mentioned critiques really enough to distract you from what the film really is: an entertaining and character driven film with a solid story, creepy atmosphere, many twists, turns, and elements that made the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling great. I don’t want to give away too much, but I think anyone who appreciates the black and white horror films of decades past will enjoy this one. I would also recommend 19 Doors to anyone who may be a fan of films like “The Grudge,” “The Shining,” or “The Ring.”

You can check out the trailer for 19 Doors on YouTube here, and check out more on the cast and crew at the film’s website here.