Movie Review: Find Northern California Views in a Spooky Setting in ‘Hotel Dunsmuir’

The film “Hotel Dunsmuir” is out, and just in time for a spooky NorCal Halloween. How do you make Dunsmuir, a gorgeous little NorCal community at home on a postcard from the 1950s, into the setting of a horror/slasher/ghost movie?

It was great fun noticing the techniques filmmakers Robb W. Gardner and Michael Zaiko Hall employed in transforming one of my favorite little towns into Spook Central. And while you’re settling into that off-balance, slightly disturbed frame of mind cultivated by horror movie aficionados, you get to recognize some of NorCal’s most beloved scenery as the setting.

There will be no “spoilers” in this review in case you want to watch the film. Think of it as a great way to get your 2022 NorCal Halloween vibe started properly. I found it really fun to see so many places I know so well, seemingly dressed up in spooky Halloween costumes, made to look like scary places.

While the story allegedly begins in “Utah’s Fishlake National Forest” before the action moves to downtown Dunsmuir, you can’t help but notice the river and waterfall they show at the beginning is Middle Falls, McCloud River. Besides being set in downtown Dunsmuir, through the course of the film you will also notice Castle Crags, Mount Shasta, the upper Sacramento River, Dunsmuir’s California Theatre (showing Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi), and Glenburn Community Church (outside of Fall River Mills). 

One of the techniques used to make everything look as scary as possible in this film is a liberal use of darkness. In watching horror movies much of my life, I’ve often wondered why the characters in these films never just turn on the danged lights. This is certainly true of “Hotel Dunsmuir,” which is best viewed in a room with all the lights turned off. 

Makers of horror movies often introduce seemingly unrelated elements to their films just to keep the audience off balance. Beyond the requisite creepy music (which won’t disappoint), two are noticeable almost immediately. The first is the sound of dripping water, like some sort of Chinese water torture going on in the background throughout much of the film. The second is the buzzing sound of electricity, like something is, or about to, short out. The darkness of the film combined with the dripping water and buzzing electricity does a splendid job of confusing the senses, just the frame of mind you want to be in if you feel like being spooked. 

Two women in the film are the “good guys,” Billie (Jet Jandreau) and Ruby (Amber Gaston). Billie claims to have ESP (extra sensory perception) and sees little orbs of light moving around. What these orbs are or represent is never revealed, adding to the suspense. Much of Ruby’s character is left to mystery, but finds connection with Billie since they’ve both been abused by men. 

The “bad guys” in the film are Luke (Jose Rosete), Billie’s abusive husband who shows videos of Billie and he having sex to his friends, and the ghost of Burt Pike, a murderer known as The Maid. Of the two bad guys, Luke gets my vote as the creepiest, especially since he forces Billie to dress provocatively and refer to him as “Daddy.” Gross.

While filming in the real-life Hotel Dunsmuir, the cast and crew actually stayed there, and they actually had some paranormal experiences themselves. The haunted stories behind the hotel are the stuff of legend, and if you’ve ever been to Dunsmuir, you will recognize the building. 

The film was written and directed by Michael Zaiko Hall who was recently awarded “Best Director” at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival. Hall is currently working on his newest film, “Peter Five Eight” also filmed in Dunsmuir bringing back Jet Jandreau (Billie) and adding well-known actors Kevin Spacey and Rebecca De Morney. It will be out in 2023.

So if you’d like to get your Halloween CREEP going in a very novel way this year, rent or purchase “Hotel Dunsmuir” from Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Vudu, Apple mi iTunes, DIRECTV and Spectrum On Demand.

Watch the trailer:

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Do not support this . The film crew had all residents evicted so they could stay . The owner of the hotel Mark is a horrible person who yelled at everyone after the fire and did nothing to help anyone . He almost killed us and only cared about the movie . Jett and Mark are Cruel Narcissistic people.

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