Motel Hell is a terrifying flick despite it’s sometimes campy leanings. 1980 produced some true cinematic turds, so it’s okay if this one slipped past. I saw this film about 30 years ago after trying to rent it several weeks in a row. My local video store had one precious copy and it was ALWAYS rented. The day I finally got it was a glorious one. Some guy returned Faces of Death before the cash register closed, sending young Fister into a state of shock. I couldn’t risk my parents catching me watching this. It was way too early in the day for that. What was my option? Go to my friend, George’s house. His parents were cool as hell, giving us kids nearly free rein when it came to movie time. Once again, thanks to Shirley for keeping me fed and always allowing access to a VCR.
Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun) and his murderous assistant, Ida (Nancy Parsons) run the less than quaint Motel Hell. The motel serves many purposes, including a way for Vincent to kidnap travelers and quietly “plant” them in his garden. Buried to the chin, he cuts out each larynx by hand, leaving his victims unable to move or scream. He attached a funnel to their heads and fattens them up before the…harvest. Yeah, no shit. It is creepy. Calhoun plays his charming ghoul of a character with confidence. The 80s wasn’t a kind time for horror video rentals, causing films like Motel Hell to stand out and quickly spread to every video store in Central Illinois.
Paul Linke plays Bruce Smith, Vincent’s younger brother and local Sheriff, and does a great job of fostering a subtle rivalry between the brothers. Vincent is a regional celebrity, known for his famous preservative-free smoked meats. That unique hickory-smoked flavor comes from his special meat blend. I’m assuming you can deduce the mystery ingredient. Adding a creep factor that was whispered among those of us not lucky enough to watch Motel Hell yet, there were rumors of a murderous chainsaw-welding cannibal with a pig’s head where a human’s should be. Those rumors were correct and the collective gasps heard during my virgin viewing were loud enough to drown the film out.
Motel Hell does a great job of towing the line between camp and pure horror. This is required 80s horror viewing. Netflix has a double-feature with Deranged on the disc. Spend three hours being properly grossed out.