A battered wife makes her way to a new life, but not exactly the one she hopes for in this indie comedy-thriller.
Nikki Travis is the wife of corporate businessman Eric Travis. Things may seem great on the surface, but Eric is actually an abusive husband and Nikki has finally had enough. She decides to leave him without his knowledge and head to start a new life. Along the way, she picks up Misty, a wild and free spirit and Nikki decides to drop her off so she can get to a hotel for the night. The next day, Nikki meets Crystal, an aspiring actress. Nikki decides to drop her off and finds the small town of Paradise.
Upon her arrival in Paradise, Nikki finds a motel to stay in, run by Raymond Taylor and his mother. She also learns about a local joint where the townsfolk hang out and spend their time playing music and dancing. Soon Nikki begins to feel herself at home, despite getting a creepy vibe from local Kevin, whose mother Jackie runs the local joint. Soon enough, Nikki finds out that both Misty and Crystal are actually locals as well and they are related to Jackie and Kevin. They promise to help Nikki, especially when Eric is planning to pay a little visit to Paradise.
At times, it’s hard to determine what kind of film this is. Is it a comedy? It is a drama? Is it a thriller? Filmmaker Walter Hochbrueckner decided to make this all three and how he structures it is quite interesting because it seems to look like a three-act film which takes each of the aforementioned genres and does it that way. The first act seems to focus on the drama, the second act comedy, and the final act, campy thriller. While this is clearly not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, there are some profound moments and goofy antics that help the film quite a bit.
Dawna Lee Heising is great as Nikki, who we see suffer so much and feel nothing but sympathy for her as she embarks on a new life away from her abusive husband. She plays the fish out of water who comes across the eccentric characters of a small town. Indie legend Nel Novak is pretty funny in the role of Raymond, the hotel owner who takes a liking to a certain type of taxidermy and is at odds with both his mom and at times, the creepy Kevin, especially when Kevin tries to find Nikki.
Aside from Heising and Novak, the film’s characters of cousins Misty and Crystal, played respectively by Llenelle Gibson and Angel Princess, are quite eccentric in their own ways. Misty is the free spirit who may be more than she seems to put on while Crystal is the aspiring actress who feels that “all beautiful people should stick together”. There’s a random dance scene with these two that literally comes out of nowhere and it’s that campiness that kind of makes you wonder what is going on, until there is a revelation involving what goes on in town. It should be mentioned that Hockbrueckner himself plays Nikki’s abusive husband and does a good job in front of the cameras.
The Paradise Motel seems to be a three-course film, starting with a taste of the dramatic before it goes into comic mode before going into thriller territory. While it may confuse viewers, it is still an interesting indie film probably worth checking out once.
WFG RATING: B-
A Spheroid Films production. Director: Walter Hochbrueckner. Producer: Walter Hochbrueckner. Writer: Walter Hochbrueckner. Cinematography: Jessica Gallant. Editing: Walter Hochbrueckner.
Cast: Dawna Lee Heising, Mel Novak, Llenelle Gibson, Angel Princess, Vera R. Taylor, Jason Wilburn, Walter Hochbrueckner, Catherine Lydon, Julianna Rose.