Saturday, September 5, 2009


"Motel Hell" (1980). This is is a movie that holds great promise, but fails to live up to it's expectations until the end. It starts out pretty slow and disappointing, just like your typical low-brow early 1980's horror flick. The movie centers around a motel in the middle of nowhere called The Motel Hello. The "O" does not work very well and it flickers on and off, so the sign really looks like it says Motel Hell. This is not a very inviting place to stay the night. There is always no vacancy, and the dark country road is always filled with fog.
Anyway, Farmer Vincent (played by Rory Calhoun) runs the motel. He sets up traps along the road to trap cars and blow out their tires. He subdues the passengers with gas and buries them in his secret garden. You see, he only leaves their heads exposed to the light and the rest of their bodies are buried underground. He covers their heads with sack cloths during the day and cuts out their vocal chords so they don't make any noise. Why does he go through all of this trouble, you might ask? Well, he makes the best barbecue around and he has his secret ingredient...the meat stays tender while the bodies are buried underground and he feeds them only organic products...

Farmer Vincent and his pig-tail overall wearing sidekick Nancy Parsons (played by Ida Smith) are two of the nicest people around, well respected in their community, but they always seem more than a little creepy. Vincent kidnaps a young female biker caught in one of his traps and raises her as his own. Never mind that they are probably about forty years apart, they want to get married. In the meantime, the bodies keep rolling in and the meat keeps rolling out.

There is one gruesome and amusing scene where Vincent hypnotizes the above ground heads with swirling lights, calming them with with pseudo beat/hippie jargon, easing the pain before Vincents' tractor snaps their neck while pulling them out of the ground with a rope..harvest time is not pretty at the Motel Hell.

While all of this sounds outlandish, like the perfect hillbilly cannibal plot, this movie plods along until we get to the end. I had to take several breaks from this movie because it was moving too slow, but the last quarter of the move really picks up. One of the buried human vegetables manages to dig his way out from underground and free the others. Watch as these grunting, corpse like people with no vocal chords take revenge on their captors. And the cops are closing in on Victor...witness the most incredible battle ever! An intense and gruelling chainsaw duel between Vincent (wearing a hog's head!) and a police officer. I have never seen a chainsaw duel before and this really made the movie for me.

I highly recommend this one. Just be patient and it will pay off. The acting is not that bad, and "Motel Hell" has an eerie, greasy atmosphere that I can't get enough of. It can be very unsettling at times, and highly original and genuinely creepy when the mood is right. This a 1980 VHS artifact that you will not want to miss.


Anonymous said...

Finally, someone who will admit that this isn't that great! I have always felt kind of bad for finding this movie boring, and everyone else seems to feel that they have to say it's great. I guess it's so great on paper, it's hard to say anything bad about it.

I agree with you - it's worth watching, but it definitely doesn't maintain a pace throughout. It's one of those movies that works better in pieces in the memory, like snapshots. Really great imagery, and some awesome moments, but as an entire film it doesn't quite work.

Steve Smith said...

I agree. It's very uneven, but enjoyable in the end nonetheless. Thanks for the comment.