Saturday, October 08, 2022

Mystery Spot, Starring Graham Skipper

If the lyrics “get your kicks on Route 66” don’t mean anything to you, the idea of roadside attractions will probably be lost on you too. Regardless, there used to be one next to this fleabag motor inn. Since it burned down, the motel has become a vortex of bad karma. Several visitors get caught up in it during director-screenwriter Mel House’s Mystery Spot, which is now available on VOD.

Rachel just checked into the room next to Nathan, who films endless audition videos in his room, for a project that apparently will never be fully cast. It is strongly implied that each hungry thesp disappears after they record their videos, but it is unclear whether he is responsible or if the blame lies with the shadowy production company that hired him. Leon definitely suspects Nathan is guilty of something, which is why he has the motel under constant surveillance. Apparently, the cop is on extended leave, or he might have possibly left the force after his partner was killed in the line of duty, at this very same motel.

Partially to her own surprise, Rachel sort of-kind of befriends Nathan, Leon, and Max, the owner-front desk clerk, who manages to be creepy and kindly simultaneously. Like Rachel, he is also mourning his late husband. Usually, nobody really goes there, unless they are “auditioning” for Nathan. However, she feels an affinity for the “Mystery Spot,” the burned-out shell of the next-door roadside attraction that featured furniture on its walls and ceilings, because the laws of gravity supposedly did not apply there.

Mystery Spot
looks cheap, but House’s screenplay is impressively ambitious. It is questionable whether it all becomes clear at the end, but the head games are deeper and more sophisticated than those of the average Christopher Nolan-knock-off. House’s characters and their motivations are so ambiguous and nuanced, it is hard to make snap assumptions.

Graham Skipper (
The Mind’s Eye and Beyond the Gates) is terrific as Nathan, stoking the audience’s sympathies and suspicions alike. Lisa Wilcox, Bobby Simpson Jr., and Lyle Kanouse (as Rachel, Leon, and Max) all provide subtle, complex performances that really help keep viewers guessing. It is also cool to see genre favorite Debbie Rochon show up as Hanlon, Leon’s eternally patient former colleague.

Even if it doesn’t quite come to together,
Mystery Spot is considerably more interesting than most cheaply produced horror movies. It is a tribute to House’s success overcoming his severe budget constraints and the cast’s ability to sell the premise. Even if you watch a lot of horror and cult cinema, it might just surprise you (but it is not for recommended middlebrow megaplex audiences). For the intrigued, Mystery Spot is now available on digital VOD.