Motel Hell. Film Review

Motel-HellMOTEL HELL

Director: Kevin Connor        Screenplay: Robert & Steven-Charles Jaffe

Starring: Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod

Format: Blu-Ray/DVD Dual Format

Reviewed by Guy Adams

The thing with sausages is that you never really know what you’re going to find in them. As  foodstuffs go they’re a pretty fair metaphor for eighties American horror cinema, MOTEL HELL more than most. The decade made an art out of squeezing gristle, reclaimed meat and the dregs left behind by other, more expensive, recipes into tasty, cheap, junk food.

MOTEL HELL stirs pretty familiar ingredients into the pot. A threadbare motel, cannibalism,  chainsaws, a dysfunctional family and a passably charming psycho with an eye for weeding out the morally reprehensible. ‘I sometimes worry about the karmic implications of these acts’ says Farmer Vincent, played by ex-cowboy star and notorious bed-spring botherer Rory Calhoun. You and me both, Rory, and I was only a witness.

Often promoted as a parody (the jury’s out with this reviewer, it’s a fine line between parody and just enthusiastic plot stripping with black humour as marinade), what makes MOTEL HELL rise above the cinematic equivalent of a pack of budget bangers is the quality of a couple of its set pieces, chiefly Farmer Vincent’s surreal death garden which I have no intention of spoiling as it’s far and away the most creative, witty and disturbing element of the movie.

The film’s strengths lie in its willingness to be absurd: Vincent in a gas mask hiding behind cardboard cows in an attempt to prey on passing motorists; the use of psychedelic anesthesia; an eight-track stereo system playing surreal sounds to aid the health of his ‘animals’… Preparing cheap food is all about the judicious use of seasoning.

For fans of this warm, neon era of American horror, MOTEL HELL will certainly please the palate. Best served with cold beer and a bourbon chaser.

Arrow offer their usual fine presentation. As ever, there’s no other company better at serving up junk food as if it were Michelin-level cuisine. As side-dishes to the main feature we have: a director’s commentary (Kevin Connor, always a hero thanks to his Amicus movies), interviews with the film’s stars Paul Linke and Roseanne Katon (although ‘star’ might be pushing it in the latter’s case!) as well as a handful of featurettes on the making of the film.

They’re currently having a rather wonderful sale at their website (www.arrowfilms.co.uk) so now is certainly the time to pick this up as, at eight quid and free UK postage, it’s a veritable bargain bucket.

About Phil Lunt (872 Articles)
Hailing from the rain-sodden, North Western wastelands of England, Phil has dabbled in many an arcane vocation. From rock-star to conveyor-belt scraper at a bread factory, 'Dairy Logistics Technician' to world's worst waiter. He's currently a freelance designer, actor, sometime writer/editor and Chair of the British Fantasy Society. He is on the Global Frequency and is still considering becoming an astronaut when he grows up.