In Motel Hell (1980), directed by Kevin Connor, who also directed films like The Land that Time Forgot (1975), At the Earth's Core (1976), and The People that Time Forgot (1977), tells another horrific tale with a cannibal slant, but unlike Deranged, Motel Hell dishes out a heaping helping of dark comedy, making for a more palatable watch (pun intended), in my opinion.
The film stars Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parson as Vincent and Ida Smith, brother and sister who run the out of the way Motel Hello (the neon letter o at the end of Hello flickers on and off) and also produce locally famous Farmer Vincent's Smoked Meats, "It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters." What makes their meats so popular? It's a family secret, but know it involves the kidnapping various passersby Vincent manages to ensnare in any number of traps he sets on the isolated road near the hotel. What happens to these unfortunate victims? Well, you really have to see it to believe it. I'll give you a hint...stay out of the `secret garden', by all means. After shooting out a tire of a couple on a motorcycle, an older man and a younger woman, Vincent takes in the woman, and with the help of his sister Ida, they nurse the woman back to health. The woman, who knows not of the peculiar methods in Vincent and Ida produce their meats, is thankful and even develops a relationship with Vincent, leading to impending nuptials. And what happens when she finally discovers their secret?
As I said, there is a good amount of black humor mixed with the horror, and the film was a lot less visceral than I thought it would be...the methods used to `fatten' up and keep the victims before their `harvesting' was quite disconcerting. Rory Calhoun presents such a friendly image throughout most of the film, reminding me of Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies, but knowing what you know as the story unfolds, it makes it all the more sinister. Look cameos by the legendary radio personality Wolfman Jack as an evangelical television preacher and John Ratzenburger of TV's Cheers as a drummer of an ill-fated rock band. I especially like the S&M couple that stay at the motel, thinking they're in for a real kinky experience, only to find that they are dead wrong. And the tearful admission by Rory Calhoun at the end is definitely worth sticking around for.
I first saw Motel Hell on TNT Monster Vision followed shortly after by Tom Savini's Night of the Living Dead (90). This is one of those films highly praised by the likes of Joe Bob Briggs the B-Movie Master. Motel Hell will leave you with the munchies, all you want is peppered beef jerky with the taste of human flesh. I was so amazed with the film t hat I even tried to use Rory's recipe to prepare some good old country cooking. This is a prime example of 80's movie nostalgia, not only do you need the DVD you need a Motel Hell barbecue bib. -Dig In
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