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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 34.38%
Average: 12.5%
Pretty Bad: 9.38%
Total Crap: 6.25%

1 review, 26 user ratings

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Motel Hell (1980)
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by Collin Souter

"A cannibal meat-smoker with a heart of gold"
4 stars

Recently, my shrink came to the conclusion that I suffer from Abandoned Uncle Syndrome, a condition some men suffer by not having a tall, flannel-wearing farmer-cannibal figure in their life. This assessment came after I mentioned to her that after my recent viewing of the 1980 film “Motel Hell,” I have been daydreaming about what my life might have been if I had a guy such as Farmer Vincent for an Uncle. Not that my own father did a bad job of raising me, or anything. My dad did great. Yet, I daydream. I daydream of having that extra bit of guidance to help me through life’s rougher moments, to have another shoulder to cry on, to be able to learn the art of burying the living up to their necks in my “secret garden” and slitting their throats. You just can’t buy these moments.

Let me tell you a little about all-American Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun) and his roly-poly sister, Ida (Nancy Parsons). They own a Motel called Motel Hello. People come from all over the grassy tundra of Hicksville U.S.A. to stay at Motel Hello. Plus, Farmer Vincent distinguishes himself by smoking the best meat in the county. When Ida comments on Vincent’s choice of human flesh, Vincent quips his immortal slogan: “It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters.” Right out of a Bob Evans commercial!

You gotta love Farmer Vincent. Right up to the very end of “Motel Hell,” this guy loves his work. He has a smile anyone could love, a devotion to craft that harkens back to the days of Dave Thomas doing Wendy’s commercials. I especially love the relationship between Vincent and his sister, Ida. The scenes between he and Ida as they wander around their “secret garden” of corpses-to-be remind me of the delicate nuances of chemistry between Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn in “On Golden Pond.” However, I don’t recall Fonda punching Hepburn in the stomach for almost giving away their secrets to the locals, but then again I haven’t yet seen the special edition DVD.

We first get a good idea of Farmer Vincent and Ida’s profession in the first 15 minutes when the Olsen Twins go exploring around the Hotel. They wander into a shed where it appears Oscar Meyer and Leatherface have just formed a corporate merger. This scares them, as well it should. Farmer Vincent tries his best to calm the girls down by shouting at them.

Farmer Vincent and Ida have a bit of a problem on their hands in the form of Terry (Nina Axelrod), a girl whose biker boyfriend bit the big one the night before and now resides in the “secret garden.” Terry knows nothing about Farmer Vincent and Ida’s secret profession. Ida doesn’t exactly come off as prime female companionship. She resembles a cross between Anne Ramsey and Sam Kinisin. With the religion TV station on in the background, Vincent and Ida try their best to calm Terry down and heal her wounded soul. Their pitiful words of comfort (“You’re never alone. You always have you”) does the trick. Yeah, sometimes in life all you need is a screaming televangelist, a ho-down butch gym teacher and James Cromwell’s evil twin and the world is your oyster.

Terry decides to hang around these two yuks for a while. The next main character to walk into frame comes in the form of the only cop in the area, Bruce, played by Paul Linke, whom I’m guessing kept losing parts to Barry Bostwick. He takes a mighty-fine interest in Terry, on a count-a-she’s-so-perty! He takes her on what has to be the cheapest date in film history. Not only does he take her to a drive-in to see “The Monster That Challenged The World,” (Leonard Maltin gave it 2 ˝ stars. Every bit as good as “Laserblast.”) but he doesn’t even pony up the cash to pay admission. Instead they watch from afar using binoculars as Bruce calls up the drive-in headmistress to pipe in the sound to his squad car.

Meanwhile, Farmer Vincent and Ida continue their promise to humanity by ridding the world of its trash. Their victims include a dumb-ass biker hair band on their way to open for The Barbusters (look for John “Cliff Clavin” Ratzenburger as The Drummer), a couple of co-eds who don’t know the difference between fake South Park cows and real cows and a kinky bondage-loving couple who resemble Sonny Bono and Deborah Harry. This last pair of victims in particular give the viewer the cheapest of thrills when we see the girl cracking the whip and the guy exiting the bathroom in a plastic dress and stockings. The intense discomfort of this bondage scene would be matched years later by virtually every nude scene in “At Play in the Fields of the Lord.”

Relations get complicated as the body count rises. Seems as though Terry has a thing for Farmer Vincent. It must have been the way he asked her, “How would you like it if I taught you about the fine art of meat smoking?” As I said before, he has a charisma and buoyancy of spirit that makes one wonder what ever happened to good ole-fashioned American values. After Terry suffers an ordeal and sleeps naked in her bed, Farmer Vincent comes in to make sure she’s okay. The dialogue exchange is priceless.

Terry: Kiss me. (He kisses her on the cheek) Not that way.
Vincent: Cover yourself. (He covers her breasts) We should be married first.
Terry: Vincent, are you proposing to me? (Silence) I’d like to be alone for a while.

Things start to get a little weirder between the two, almost incestuous. In one scene, Terry declares, “I love him and he’s going to be my old man!”

The thing that separates Vincent from most other serial killer cannibal meat-peddlers is that he seems to have a specific cause and he believes in it wholeheartedly. Even as the screenplay in the last act tries to get all philosophical with the inevitable question, “Who are you to play God?” Farmer Vincent dismisses it beautifully. “There’s too many people in this world and not enough food. This takes care of both problems.”

Seriously, for an insanely silly drive-in horror-comedy with its tongue planted firmly in cheek, “Motel Hell” has it all. It has humor accompanied by banjo music derived from “The Dukes of Hazard,” chicks going tubing, a part for Wolfman Jack, some great bullwhip action and a killer final act that I wouldn’t dream of giving away.

I attribute my imagination to the casting of Rory Calhoun. He makes Farmer Vincent the most likable and sincere murderer-with-a-cause, the kind of character we wouldn’t meet until 1985 with the Herbert West character in Stuart Gordon’s masterpiece “Re-Animator.” My shrink may have been just concocting a Syndrome just to get me to get out of her office (as is usually the case), but I can’t help but feel a kinship as he utters his last line of dialogue in the movie. I won’t give it away. Instead, I will leave you with this to ponder: For what does it profit a man to gain the world, but to use preservatives?

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originally posted: 07/02/02 23:33:00
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell silly & boring 1 stars
1/06/10 art IN A CONTEST BETWEEN THIS,{MOTEL HELL} and tom savini's MANIAC,i'd choose MOTEL HELL! 3 stars
10/24/09 brian Phenomenally stupid and insulting, but at least it has a (very dark) sense of humor. 3 stars
5/25/09 art A MATTER OF TASTE! 3 stars
5/17/09 donnyinto Not enough Bullwhipping 2 stars
10/08/07 KNurse one of the best horror flicks ever made...if you are truly into horror movies 5 stars
1/30/07 David Pollastrini good gore. 5 stars
2/09/06 Darren O Occasional cleverness makes this a better than average slaughter flick 3 stars
10/27/05 chris those who think this film is a horror/comedy are idiots this is a classic horror film 5 stars
10/09/05 Kevin Takes all kinds of critters to make Vincent's fritters 4 stars
4/27/04 Ben Lokan Surprisingly good! 4 stars
3/31/04 American Slasher Goddess Great horror comedy. 4 stars
10/27/03 RB best bad horror movie ever; a real hoot 5 stars
8/03/03 mark smith a classic - right up there with 'army of darkness' 5 stars
4/14/03 Dr. Zinn Fabulous entertainment! Well-made & funny in a very sick way 5 stars
2/09/03 lar so bad it is really funny 5 stars
1/17/03 Paul Coleman One of the funniest films of the 80's. Rory Calhoun is outstanding. A must see!! 4 stars
11/17/02 MC Rage This movie was Awsome!, pawn shop, $4!!! 5 stars
10/16/02 .Choadushouse. A grand finale! Weird WEIRD highlights. Plenty of tasty MEAT! 4 stars
7/03/02 Charles Tatum Substandard 1980's horror 2 stars
5/20/02 F@rty Bl@st Cut out me tongue, and call me for lunch! 5 stars
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  18-Oct-1980 (R)
  DVD: 27-Aug-2002



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