Director – Kevin Connor
Cast – Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod, Wolfman Jack, Elaine Joyce, Monique St. Pierre, Rosanne Katon, E. Hampton Beagle, Everett Creach, Michael Melvin
Release Year – 1980
Reviewed by John of the Dead
At least once in your life you’ve had to think to yourself, “I would NEVER stay in that place” when passing a rundown motel/hotel in the middle of nowhere. This film plays on that and gives us a charismatic and creepy motel owner who brings us many laughs and some great gore as well. If you enjoyed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this film mixes Hooper’s classic with the Beverly Hillbillies and gives us awesome results.
Motel Hell focuses on a solemn roadside motel owned by Farmer Vincent, a renowned BBQ enthusiast known throughout the county for his roadside BBQ. Farmer Vincent is not keen to disclosing his recipe for his BBQ and “fritters”, and with good reason. For one, his meats are not farm raised, but consist of the XX and XY chromosome variety. Farmer Vincent’s roadside traps allow him to capture his human victims, whom he buries in a “garden” where he can feed them and get them “ready” for cookin’. Remember his motto: “It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters”.
If you want a fun, cheezy, gore-filled Hillbilly film then Farmer Vincent has got you covered. Personally, I love horror films involving a motel/hotel in the middle of nowhere simply because most of us can relate to having the idea of staying in such a motel/hotel cross our minds at least once. We all seem to reserve space for the fear of what would happen if the person who runs the motel is a creeper who has a sinister reason for running the motel, and that is one element that makes this film so much fun to watch and relate to. If you are a fan of cooking and BBQ, then prepare for some even more fun. I liked this element because the insight provided to us makes us aware that Farmer Vincent is not serving any normal “secret ingredient”, but something we all wish to never be duped into eating.
Kevin Connor’s direction is what really makes this film a fun watch. He adds just the right amount of gore in all of the proper places, and gets the right type of performance from each actor that is needed to add some quirk to this flick. Some scenes are very Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque, and from what I have read about this film Kevin Connor was highly influenced by Tobe Hooper’s classic. The end scene involving Farmer Vincent welding a chainsaw and wearing a pig’s head while battling a local sheriff immediately had me thinking Leatherface, so yeah I believe this film really is influenced by TCM. For me that was not a problem because regardless of whatever films have influenced Motel Hell I still found it an enjoyable watch that gave me everything I wanted to see.
The storyline is one that I enjoyed especially because of the unique and interesting elements that were thrown in. I LOVED how Farmer Vincent would “plant” and “grow” his victims in his garden, severing their vocal chords so that they could not scream for help, leaving them only the ability to squirm for help, which really didn’t “help” them at all. There really is not too much that goes on this film other than what happens at the motel, and while others looking for a more adventure-esque approach will not like this film’s lack of constantly changing sets, I found it just fine thanks to some pretty sweet sets used when we get to the grit of the film. The deep coolers and basements in the motel provided for some pretty spooky scenes, and Kevin Connor’s direction and dark lighting helped pave the way for more eeriness in this film.
Overall, this is a fun watch that I recommend to fans of “fun” and cheezy horror films, especially those who love watching cannibal Hillbillys run amock. Watch this one so you can be ready for Rob Zombie’s (hypothetical)remake, because this is DEFINITELY up his trail.