Motel Hell (1980) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Motel Hell (1980) Review

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on November 04th, 2020 | Movie Review | Comedy, Cannibalism, Motel, 80's Horror

A seemingly friendly farmer and his sister kidnap unsuspecting travelers and bury them alive, using them to create the "special meat" they are famous for.

Motel Hell was directed by Kevin Connor (From Beyond the Grave) and stars Rory Calhoun (from Hell comes to Frogtown), Nina Axelrod (from Cross Country), Elaine Joyce (from Trick or Treat), Nancy Parsons and Paul Linke.

It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent Fritters

Motel Hell Review

I try to make it a point every October to watch an older horror movie that I’ve never seen. Motel Hell has been on my radar for years now - it keeps popping up as an obscure one to watch that’s a bit of a cult movie, so my friends and I zoom watched together, and we were not disappointed with this absolutely ludicrous film.

Vincent and his younger sister Ida run a motel called Motel Hello, but despite this film’s title, the motel is irrelevant. What’s more important to the story is the farm they run that’s attached to it, where they raise and slaughter pigs for jerky everyone in town eats. Only, something’s not quite right about this farm’s meat.

For some reason, this movie starts incredibly slow; I almost turned it off and watched something else. I was looking for some insanity and laughs that come with old slashers, and the beginning took too long to set up. Thankfully I hung in because man, oh man, did I get what I was asking for.

Wrong Turn borrowed this movie’s idea - Vincent sets up some traps to cause accidents on back roads. The accidents are bad enough to incapacitate but the aim is not to kill - he and Ida have ideas about what they’re going to do with the new “animals” they’ve captured. Their garden setup, where they “plant” their new possessions, is extremely creepy, as are Vincent and Ida themselves - hats off to the actors for their performances - being that they are batshit crazy small town folk with a sinister agenda. The scares end there, though, because the rest of the movie, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally, is hilarious.

When Vincent causes an accident with a couple and becomes attracted to the woman, Terry, he decides he’s going to save her. When she wakes up, she’s pretty shaken up about her dead boyfriend for a little while. Then the next day she’s like, well, I guess I live on this farm now. Everybody, including Vincent’s loser brother, Bruce the Sheriff, is pretty stoked about it, but Terry only has eyes for Vincent. Terry and Vincent are suddenly getting married like three days after her boyfriend dies - the timeline is messy - because what woman wouldn’t want to marry a farmer three times her age? She simply cannot wait to have sex with this bag of bones, and Vincent is a man of values, so marriage comes first. But she’s not in on the family secret, so her life is always in jeopardy.

This film is what The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would be if it took a left turn and decided to replace the heaviness with some fun - though much like its predecessor, it makes you feel pretty uncomfortable, and it’s surprisingly gory for a movie that’s partly satire. If you’re looking for some social commentary, it could be interpreted that this is an animal rights film; the parallels between the humans and animals are pretty clear. You could also find some meaning that Vincent is ultra-religious, with a church service constantly running in the background of the motel. Maybe even a PSA on STDs, which are mentioned a couple of times. But that’s not what you’re coming to Motel Hell for. You’re coming to see an egregiously long chainsaw fight with one of the people in the fight wearing a gigantic hog’s head. Right? Right.

Worth Watching?

Motel-Hell-yes. Tons of memorable characters and moments that make you stop and say, “Wait, what?” This movie could not be more indicative of the horror movies of the 70s that inspired it. You have to watch this with friends - it’s so much more fun. 

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