MOTEL HELL. Directed By Kevin Conner, Starring Rory Calhoun (1980).
Reviewed By Goat Scrote
Reviewed By Goat Scrote
I have really enjoyed this movie ever since I was a kid and I watched it on cable late one night (or early one morning, technically). It’s streaming on Amazon Prime as I write this, and it’s one of the more entertaining horror-comedies to come out of the 70s and 80s. It displays a twisted sense of humor on the part of the filmmakers that I can really appreciate, as well as deep affection for the scary movies which it pokes fun at.
Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun) witnesses a motorcycle accident involving a man and a woman. They’re knocked out and Vincent swoops in to clean up. He immediately develops the hots for the blonde woman, Terry, so he takes her home to nurse her back to health. When she awakens, the farmer sadly informs her that her biker boyfriend Bo is dead. In a twist on the way this scenario usually plays out, Terry falls for her older rescuer. She clearly has a thing for older men, given her previous boyfriend is also two or three times her age.
The situation is complicated by Ida, who is Vincent’s crazy evil daughter… er… sister?… um… wife, maybe. Possibly all three. They leave that question open for quite a while before they establish that they are siblings, but I don't think that necessarily rules out the other options. Vincent also has a kid brother, Bruce, who is the law in these here parts. A love triangle develops when Bruce develops a crush on Terry as well. She likes her men with a little more seasoning than the young police officer, however.
The family runs a motel but their main business is making smoked pork. People come to the farm from far and wide to buy the delicious sausages. A couple of little girls wander into the slaughterhouse and are seriously traumatized by Ida, who chases them while wearing the severed head of a pig. What a nice lady.
Wolfman Jack, the growly-voiced radio DJ who also starred in his own saturday morning cartoon, has a part as a sleazy televangelist.
A bumbling livestock inspector keeps showing up, trying to secretly figure out Vincent’s secret recipe. He regrets finding out when he discovers a garden patch full of people buried up to their necks. Their vocal cords have been cut so they can’t scream. This turns out to be the fate of all of the victims Farmer Vincent collects. He is planting living humans and harvesting them!
Vincent lays out a bear trap on the road and we realize that Terry’s motorcycle accident wasn’t an accident at all. This time the trap snags a van with some super stylin’ 70s airbrush art, carrying a band called Ivan and the Terribles. Vincent’s dialogue with Ida here is priceless. He explains how finding ways to abduct people gives him a chance to exercise his creativity. Meanwhile, Ivan and the Terribles end up in the garden.
Elsewhere, Terry and Bruce settle in to watch a drive-in movie, “The Monster that Challenged the World” (a classic 1957 sci-fi flick). Terry has to fend off Bruce as he tries to force himself on her. This tender felony is interrupted by a call on the radio from a woman who is being chased in her car after seeing someone (guess who?) abduct her friend.
Vincent continues to kidnap people, exhibiting a cheerful disposition all the while. One funny sequence involves a couple of swingers who show up and invite Vincent and Ida to their room for some bondage. The swingers get tied up and planted, of course.
Ida is jealous of Terry, so when they go inner tubing at the local reservoir Ida arranges an “accident” to try to drown her competition. Vincent has other plans for the girl so he rescues her. Terry is ever so grateful to her rescuer, and tries to seduce him unsuccessfully. This turns into a marriage proposal, however, and she accepts. Kid brother Bruce is crazy with jealousy.
Later Ida and Vincent drug Terry so they can go tend their special garden. They use big hypno-wheels and flashing lights to daze the survivors and turn them into nearly-mindless vegetables. Vincent extols the virtues of a “radical hypno-high… heavier, smoother than any trip you’ve had”. To harvest the people out of the garden they tie nooses around the victims’ necks, and pull with the tractor to kill them instantly and yank them out of the ground. At one point the villainous Vincent wonders about the “karmic implications of these acts” of murder. He feels he is doing the world a favor with his culinary genius!
Bruce start uncovering evidence of Vincent’s crimes and reveals them to Terry, but the two are captured by Vincent and Ida. Meanwhile one of the vegetables planted in the garden frees an arm enough to dig himself out, and then frees the others. The movie takes on a bit of a zombie vibe with growling brain-damaged savages out for bloody revenge. The vegetable squad soon takes out Ida.
Bruce has a chainsaw duel with Farmer Vincent, who is wearing the head of a pig, while Terry is on a conveyor headed for a meat-slicing machine. This ending gave me nightmares as a child. The cop vs. flesh-wearing psychopath chainsaw duel is awfully similar to the ending of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” (1986) but “Motel Hell” did it first. Vincent ends up with a chainsaw stuck through him, and with his dying breath admits his secret regret, the one thing he is ashamed of: He has been using preservatives in the meat all along!!
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