A few of the Horror Hotel props used and the history behind them
Most of the episodes in the Horror Hotel series requires the making of special props. Some of the stories are totally centered around those props making them essential plot elements. The Horror Hotel writer/carpenter/prop builder, Al Hess, comes up with some pretty imaginative and creative gadgets to use to propel the stories along with fun, practical visuals. Here are just a few with more to come!
Houdini's Hand Box - 1st season episode "Houdini's Hand"
"Houdini's Hand" is a story about two petty criminals who steal the severed hand of the magician Houdini from a safe cracker. The hand is supernatural and can open safes and locks, naturally. The hand resides in a very ornate box which is like a Chinese puzzle and tricky to open, but the crooks manage and the hand escapes into the room, locking them in and terrorizing them into a frenzy. Houdini was a showman and we wanted a box that really depicted that over-the-top, decorated look that signified something not only spooky but quite unique and one-of-a-kind. Al Hess found the box on E-bay. A former old cigar box, someone had already added loads of fancy, odd trim to the box including a velvet lined interior. He glitzed it up a bit with gold paint and other paint. To make it truly the 'home' of the hand, he craved the word Houdini in Carnival typeface on a piece of wood, painted it up and glued it to the top.
Inflatable Alien Radio - 1st season episode "Invader"
"Invader" is a sci-fi tale of a group of motel residents that falsely accuse a science fiction writer (James Edward Thomas) of being an alien from outer space when the real alien is hiding in plain sight. When the director told Al Hess he wanted an 'organic' looking radio, it required some real head scratching and creativity.
Since organic meant living, we needed a radio that would essentially 'grow'. Mr. Hess came up with a unique design modeled after War World II field hand radios but one that would actually 'grow' in the aliens hand when he pulled it out to call the 'mother ship'. The radio was sewn from shiny, skin looking fabric that could be folded up as small as a wallet and slipped into the alien's pocket. The inside contained a deflated beach ball bladder connected to an air hose and pump. As he held the radio, it began to inflate on camera. The final radio had a rigid foam block inside holding it firm. The effect was quite good enabling the alien (actor Troy Halverson) to call for reinforcements.
Alien Space Buggy - 2nd season "Aliens Stole My Boyfriend"
"Aliens Stole My Boyfriend" is a sci-fi tale of two cute alien chicks that crash land their 'space buggy' in the parking lot of the motel looking for Earth boyfriends. The big visual effect in this episode was the opening crash itself which required a large miniature motel built by the Hess family and some other prop artists. The space buggy itself was carved from a single piece of wood by Mr. Hess. Working from several designs, he combined the ideas into one piece, sketched it on wood and begin to carve away.
The idea was to make it look somewhat fun and not too threatening as the story is chocked full of humor and the adorable space chicks (Actors Stephanie Stevens and Anastasia Pekhtereva) only came for a boyfriend, not to take over.
The motel model itself was a huge prop requiring around 6 months to build and complete with 3 separate buildings, street lights that worked, a neon motel sign, model cars and exploding telephone poles. Watch Horror Hotel The Movie FREE on amazon prime ►Here
Brain Robbing Machine - 2nd season "Brain Robbers In Love"
"Brain Robbers In Love" centers around a narcissistic businesswoman (Deborah Childs) paying a pretty girl (Tera Buerkle) to swap brains temporarily on the guise that she is going to steal information from her competitive company. It is all about the 'brain swap' so we needed a really good prop. The machine needed to be portable and easy to transport. Mr. Hess took an old metal case, painted it up military grey and took parts from old radios, switches, knobs and even blinking lights and made a dashboard complete with dials and gauges.
When the operator throws the switch, it really does the trick even smoking and dinging when the transfer is 'complete'. For a dash of humor, he added a switch for dog or human.
Steampunk Android Goggles - 1st season "Tilt"
"Tilt" weaves a tale about a petty criminal and his pretty sidekick android "Skinny" who accidentally fall into the kidnapping of a famous spyware programmer and hold him for sale to an unsavory group. Skinny (actress Marie Barker) wears some pretty cool steampunk style googles in the opening scene allowing her to see virtual stats before her eyes about the person she is looking at.
The googles were made from several camera lenses attached to a stretchy band. They look pretty cool and sci-fi'ish
Homemade Stunner - 1st season episode "Invader"
"Invader" called for a number of custom props and this little gadget was used by Helen Kravitz (actress Susan Moss) when declaring she wasn't afraid of an alien as she would "stun the jebbers" out of him. The inspiration for the homemade stunner came from an actress who came to audition for the part and had made her own stunner out of some really wicked bent up spoons attached to some batteries. Al though it just looked really spooky and modeled the prop after the idea with some caution stripes and coiled copper wire. It was actually pretty funny.
The Big Killer Keller Book - 1st season "Bookworm"
"Bookworm" is a creepy tale about an obsessed woman determined to get a hold of some unpublished manuscripts of her favorite (now deceased) author. And she will do anything to get a hold of them. Actress Elle Trapkin channels an odd psycho bookworm and eventually attacks the bookdealer with an oversized braille book written by Helen Keller.
The book was quite large and had to be safe to clonk over someones's head. Al took foam sheets and glued them together for the inside and outside covers making it lightweight and harmless, yet deadly in the film.
Attack of the Space Ants Comic Book - 3rd season - "Sleep Tight"
"Sleep Tight" is a monster tale about bed bugs that grow to larger than normal sizes due to snacking on a body builder pumped with steroids. It was our first episode to use kids and we wanted to have the boy (Samuel Norman) reading a scary comic about giant bugs attacking Earth. A former Horror Hotel actor, Jerry Irwin (Invader from first season) drew the very fitting graphics which included a two page insert detailing the story. We had several of them made up from the original because the character was constantly folding it up and stuffing in his back pocket.