Motel Hell Blu-ray Review
Directed by Kevin Connor
Written by Robert Jaffe, Steven-Charles Jaffe and Tim Tuchrello
1980, Region 2 (BC), 101 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 20th May 2013
Rory Calhoun as Vincent Smith
Paul Linke as Bruce Smith
Nancy Parsons as Ida Smith
Nina Axelrod as Terry
Wolfman Jack as Reverend Billy
Elaine Joyce as Edith Olson
The finest rip-off The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ever produced, and one of the better cult horror films of the 1980s. Being a sucker for horror movie villains who wear pig head masks and carry chainsaws, I was always guaranteed to love Motel Hell. Add to that a spot of cannibalism and a very interesting farming technique, and you have a recipe for success.
Farmer Vincent and his sister Ida live on a farm adjoining the titular Motel Hell(o), which they also own and manage. But Vincent's cheery disposition and smiley demeanour belie his true nature. For in his spare time, he enjoys murdering innocent passers-by and motel guests, harvesting their organs to create a range of smoked meats, which he then sells on. Well, it's a business model which worked out very well for Drayton Sawyer and his family. Norman Bates didn't do too badly with his own psycho motel either, at least until he got sloppy. As a by-product of Vincent's nasty activities, poor innocent Terry falls into his hands. Unaware (at least at first) that Vincent has recently harvested her boyfriend for dinner, she begins to fall for his eerie charms.
Motel Hell is a particularly daft movie, often to its own detriment. Those who criticised the Texas Chain Saw Massacre sequels for being too silly would be well advised to steer clear of this wilfully eccentric film. It's very reminiscent of the least loved Chainsaw sequel, The Next Generation, in its craziness. At least Matthew McConaughey and Bridget Jones are nowhere to be seen. This, combined with the inventive kills and atmospheric weirdness of Tourist Trap (that other great Texas Chain Saw Massacre rip-off) make Motel Hell an oddity to remember.
With its timeless concept, great title and memorable imagery, it's a wonder it hasn't been remade already. While it's only a matter of time, any remake team would be hard-pressed to match the spectacular silliness of what we have here. Sure, we could do with less of the comedy cop routine (most horror films could) and a little more seriousness, but this is one which should be appreciated for its eccentricities. In spite of its flaws, Motel Hell is one of my favourite backwoods horror films of all time. The comic book is pretty awesome too.
While it's not a classic piece, Motel Hell is a lot of fun. It's the sort of film in which the villain buries his victims up to their necks in his garden and harvests their heads like cabbage. It's one of the few movies with the good grace to end with a chainsaw duel starring a serial killer who wears a pig's head on his, ah, head. Oh, hell(o) yeah.
Video and Audio:
This Arrow Video release is the best the film has ever looked or sounded. The HD makes certain special effects look a little dated (the Styrofoam pig's head looks particularly fake) but the upgrade is otherwise well worth it.
Another excellent set of extras from Arrow consists of an audio commentary, interviews with actor Paul Linke (who reveals that the film was initially supposed to be more comedic than it already is), actress Rosanne Keaton, and the fun and informative featurettes Ida be Thy Name (a piece on female horror villains) and Back to the Backwoods.
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