AWA Studios: HotELL #3 (2020) - Reviewed

HotELL #3 is the latest entry in the devilishly delightful horror anthology series from John Lees, and this issue is a serious treat. Thus far, any entry of HotELL is a good place to start, but issue #3 is certainly the best of the bunch. The anthology centers around Pierrot Courts, a small hotel in the desert off the famous Route 66. As you can guess by the title, this is not just any hotel, it is one that, for reasons unexplained, acts as a harbinger of evil. The hotel is not located on any map, rather, people find Pierrot Courts when they’re meant to. The main constant between the different individual stories is Pierrot Courts’ sole employee, who acts as a Crypt Keeper or Rod Sealing character introducing each story.

This issue centers around Kristen Clements, a journalist who is actually actively seeking out Pierrot Courts. She is working on a story about Wilbur Finch, an infamous serial killer known for turning his victims into pieces of furniture. A gruesome and vicious montage shows some of Finch’s kills, and they are certainly a twisted sight to see. Finch was last seen in a room at Pierrot Courts with two victims. One managed to escape, the other was Kristen’s sister. When Kristen finally finds her way to Pierrot Courts her story will lead her to a place that is much more than she bargained for. 

This single issue of an anthology does an incredibly effective job of telling a narrative worthy of an entire arc, managing to pack in scares, action, mystery and even references to the previous HotELL entries. These references are actually quite charming, despite the fact that things usually don’t go too well for visitors at Pierrot Courts. The art is grounded yet horrifying, off putting and otherworldly. One sequence in particular towards the end of the issue does a great job or ramping up tension at a stunning pace to a satisfying pay off. 

Usually, by the nature of anthology series, there’s bound to be a few stinkers. But three issues in and Lees and co. have delivered with each entry. The world of HotELL has steadily expanded each issue, and hopefully this is a trend that can continue going in to HotELL #4, which is set to be the finale. If you haven’t already, it is not too late to check in to what is certainly one of the best current horror titles. 

-Neil Hazel