Motel Hell (1980)
"It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent Fritters!" Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun, Hell Comes to Frogtown) and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons, the Porky's series) have had the best meat in their little rough country town for nearly thirty years now. They have an extra special ingredient that comes from their secret garden behind the motel. After a deadly accident, Terry (Nina Axelrod, Critters 3) wakes up at their motel to learn that her biker boyfriend has died and was buried by Farmer Vincent in the wee hours that morning. It seems the town has a rule where dead folk can be buried without any questions necessary. After she stays a bit and takes a liking to the peculiar farmers, Vincent and Ida decide they want to slowly teach her the ancient art of meat smoking!
Motel Hell is the true definition of a Drive-in classic. Movies this great are few and far between, and nothing like this is made anymore. Even though it does owe a lot of respect to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it manages to be it's own little movie. The setting completely puts you in a third person perspective. Off of a backwoods country road lays a little place called Motel Hello. The "O" in "Hello" flickers on and off, leaving the viewer in a trance of sorts. Then, there's Farmer Vincent, swaying back and forth in his rocking chair on the front porch. This would be enough to turn anybody around in need of a place to stay these days. Even after a DVD transfer, this movie still has the gritty and less advanced look it needs in order to be effective. What makes old films work so well is that they look old. It's an unfamiliar territory for younger audiences, so in that aspect the old look either makes it, or breaks it; but this is absolutely something to check out for the old-school classic horror fans.
The screenplay is almost done no justice in terms of acting; but luckily, the late Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons go far beyond saving it. They are just right for their roles, and none of the mad acts they commit faze them in the least bit. It is all amusing to them, and they chuck jokes back-and-forth to each other the entire time. Plus, take a glance at their selection of attire; the overalls are quite enthralling. The acting from everyone else in the film is a farcical laugh-riot, and in these circumstances works perfect. Take a minute out to chuckle at Paul Linke (Shrunken Heads, K-PAX) as the inept and perverted Deputy Bruce Smith, brother of Farmer Vincent. For thirty years this idiot hasn't an inkling of what is going on. Also, Nina Axelrod is far from a great actress, but she is pleasant to look at; well, she was back in 1980.
Motel Hell isn't special FX boasted, even for its time frame. It chooses to work off of bizarreness other than blood-drenched images. There are pig body parts all over the place, as well as some human torsos. The scenes from the secret garden are brilliant in a morose redneck type way. Possibly the greatest fear level of the picture comes from a chainsaw sequence, during the climax of the film. This is where the nastiness of the film unfolds, and of course it's in the meat-smoking house.
Therefore, don't rent this movie. Buy it. You most likely won't be dissatisfied. It is available now on DVD from MGM Midnite Movies (side one of the disc has Deranged). There isn't much for special features except the theatrical trailer; but if you are previously a fan of Motel Hell and only have an old VHS copy, you will be stunned. Every shot is super clear and crisp, while still carrying the unique look intended. In essence all the shots that were too dark before, are now viewable the way the should be. Trust me, if offbeat classics are for you, than this movie certainly is too.