Movie Mini-Review: Motel Hell (1980)

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Motel Hell is a noteworthy midnight movie from 1980 which definitely gives a nod to Texas Chain Saw Massacre. While it’s nowhere near as relentlessly paced or ‘verite’ as Texas Chain Saw, this movie finds its own groove by steering a bit closer to comedy. I’d always thought The Evil Dead began the great ’80s horror/comedy boom, but this movie predates Evil Dead by a year or two. In the film, Farmer Vincent uses humans to make his famous meat — that part is recycled from TCM — but what is distinct about this movie is how Farmer Vincent raises the meat. He severs the vocal cords of his victims and plants them in the ground. The disturbing yet comical sight of several lolling heads gargling in the dirt is probably what this movie is best known for. The climax sees a chainsaw duel, before Leatherface would get his turn in 1986’s TCM2.

This isn’t a great movie by any means. It’s a little slow at the beginning and I found myself wishing Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons (Porky’s Miss Balbricker) would cut loose and give us more colorful performances, but I guess that might have encouraged yet more TCM comparisons. If you enjoy horror movies, I think this one is worth a look, not only for its modest entertainment value, but for the interesting, transitional place it holds in the genre’s history.

Rating: 3/5 ★★★☆☆ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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