Motel Hell (UK - BD RB)
Marcus checks into a motel that's known for its fine meats. Oh wait, cannibals!
Motel Hello is home to farmer Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) and his sister Ida. Known locally as the farmer that provides the best meats around, Vincent has a dark secret that he enjoys every minute of. The meat from his farm is people and whoever he can get his hands on or lure to the motel is livestock for his supply.
Motel Hell is a black comedy horror from 1980 that’s takes a satirical spin on the blossoming Slasher/Hillbilly flicks of the era without ever turning into a full on laugh fest. Farmer Vincent’s dark deeds still manage to hit with some oomph despite the grins most of the killing will raise in the audience and the ever growing absurdities still make this low budget gem a pretty grizzly horror, despite the fact it’s not all that graphic. This one is distinctly 80s in style and humour with the killer farmer talking out each and every type of extreme 80s cliché you can get. Rockers, swingers, cops, the lot and of course being farmers most of the killing take place in the fields.
The dark humour here is most felt when we get to see what’s left of Farmer Vincent’s victims. Vocal chords cut, buried neck deep within the crops with bags on their heads while the farmer and his sister toy with them before killing, preparing and then selling them as meat. None of this ever feels all that intense in horror terms but it’s that extra bit of weird and nasty that makes Motel Hell its own beast and makes it a little more memorable than many comedy horrors it stands beside. That and the scene with the swingers. There’s a good few minutes with the swingers where you’ll wonder what the hell is going on. Whips, lube, shaving chests and hogtying, it’s all pretty crazy for a while there. Oh and if the whole cannibalism thing wasn’t enough there's a non zombie, zombie attack finale to take Motel Hell into somewhere even more insane before the credits roll. No wonder the ‘O’ in the Motel Hello neon light keeps shorting out.
Coming out of the fairy grubby looking opening credits with the Tron-esq neon font, Motel Hell presents some solid colours and its fair share of sharp edges, despite the dark, foggy setting. Skin tones appear natural, rear headlights glow a warm neon red and outside of the odd speck of print damage poking holes in the darkness, black levels and nice and solid and smoothly blend into greys rather than slip into grubbiness.
Surprisingly the image appears fuzzier when daylight rolls around. Grain is always apparent and edges somehow feel less defined in the interior sets. It’s really only the external daylight scenes that have a bit of HD pop to them and thats largely only delivered with the clean and bright red truck the farmer travels around in.
This is a presentation that never really gets off the ground. It’s got some good colours and there’s an obvious HD overhaul to the film but the image here just seems to get fuzzier as the film moves on and by the time we reach the multiple death finale there’s an almost VHS look to the quality where everything gets very soft behind lack of strong lighting and the gauze of grain covering the screen
The LPCM 2.0 track is largely centre based and it feels very hollow. There’s even a layer of muffled fuzz to it which dates everything quite substantially. It’s not in every scene but the dialogue never feels quote as crisp as it ought to somehow.
Atmospheric sounds manage to reach put beyond the stereo track and birds chirp away in places that feel wider than the main body of the track. Also the tinkering score manages to outreach the 2.0 limitations a lot of the time, even if the songs on the soundtrack don't so much.
The commentary with Kevin Connor is a Q&A style track with a guy from Arrow firing questions at the director. Connor is a keen participant and covers plenty of topics, The horror genre in general is discussed and the differences in 80s and modern day horror comes up including talking about how extreme everything has got. Technical elements are also glanced across but sometimes the Arrow guy's enthusiastic questions are not met with the desired level of detail in return,
'Another Head On The Chopping Block' (14:50 HD) is an interview with actor Paul Linke, who played Bruce the cop in the film and 'From Glamour to Gore' (11:26 HD) talks to actress Rosanne Katon, one of Farmer Vincent’s victims.
'Ida, Be Thy Name' (18:07 HD) covers classic horror females, showing plenty of clips from a handful of female horror roles and there’s plenty of talk about their appeal. Then of course we slip into Ida from Motel Hell and her traits. There’s also talk about the growth of the hillbilly and the slasher combination in horror and where females feature in the sub-genre.
'Back to the Backwoods' (10:09 HD) has Dave Parker, the Hills Run Red director and he talks about why he's a Motel Hell fan. Basically it’s the film’s weirdness and its questionable message regarding Farmer Vincent's motivations. He also lets us know that the Jaffe Brothers wrote and produced the film and later produced one of them produced Ghost, yep,THAT Ghost with Swayze and Demi claying around to the Righteous Brothers.
Last up is the trailer and of coure the DVD copy.
Motel Hell took me back to my youth where I fell in and out of love with horrors with a sense of humour. The 80s was a hive of them and not all of them worked as well as Motel Hell manages to. The best word to describe this dark comedy horror is ‘silly’ but it still balances a solid horror tone with its weirdness and even at its most insane, it still claws its way back to creepy when it needs to, even if it’s never really anything anyone could get scared about. The transfer here is okay but never really provides a solid HD WOW factor, the audio is slightly below average too but the extras make up for the presentation’s short comings and brings back this release to a pretty appealing prospect for Motel Hell fans overall.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 20th May 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo
Extras: Commentary, Interviews, Featurette, Trailer, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kevin Conner
Cast: Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons
Genre: Comedy and Horror
Length: 101 minutes