I was a teenager when this first came out and was featured in many a Starbust and Fangoria magazine. It was even parodied in MAD magazine (assuming anyone in UK has heard of that). It's a film I've wanted to see ever since but also with some trepidation.
Liking my films to have a reasonably good sheen on them and clear soundtrack one of the reasons I held out so long was the fear that this would be lost in the 80's haze of vhs quality film making. Also a lots of 70's and 80's films end up being so dated that I have them on my shelf purely for numbers and would be the first to go in any future blu ray culls.
I was waiting and waiting for MOTEL HELL to turn up on the horror channel so I could see it FOC. The reviews on Amazon. although detailed, didn't help. After all you have to like this type of movie in the first place and you are unlikely to be swayed if you don't.
However, i have it now and on the whole I enjoyed it.
The anti heroes are introduced in the first act and it's refresheing to see a story from their point of view. The acting is impressive for the most part (Nina Axelrod, the blonde actress excluded), The picture is impressive as is the soundtrack which gives the early part of the story much gravitas. It started of quite creepy and could possibly have trhown in a few more scares.
It was a smorgasboard (sorry) of familiar faces although Paul Link (from Chips fame) maybe became a bit too caricature.
Black comedies are rarely laugh out loud but I found I did snigger a bit. The only downside was I did find myself constantly asking myself "did I really like this film" rather than just enjoy it. I may have to watch it again soon. Second times usually are better.
The chainsaw standoff was a little disappointing however but that could have probably been improved with some added sound effects and dramatic music to build the tension.
The extra features are excellent, informative and funny.
At the end of the day, I'm glad I have this in the collection
"Motel Hell" is an odd-bird - it's construction leaves the film with a very slow deliberate pace to begin with, punctuated by slow, niche humour, which changes rather abruptly to a faster paced, broader humour as the film goes on. After the very creepy opening credits (with a wonderful and scary piano-based score), the film lags a bit for me (though you gotta love the bit where the bus driver says "let's find a place to crash for the night!" right before...) until about halfway through, when the film picks up and leaves you giggling. The ending is probably the highlight of the whole thing, and it's easy to see the influence this had on Tobe Hooper, who worked on but left the project, when he made Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. It belongs in the company of TCM 2, and Slaughterhouse - weird, vegetarian (usually) cannibal comedy - and it continues the conceit of Red Dragon (2003 film not book), TCM 2, Soylent Green, Red Dwarf episode "Tikka to Ride"...of showing the strange idea (which makes little sense but is very funny) that if you ate human flesh, without knowing what it was, you'd LOVE it. I have no idea where this notion came from, but it's a good one. The film's sense of humour and knowing absurdity is to be cherished - I'm sure the idea started from the title and lead naturally to the TCM/Psycho parody of a plot. I also love the closing lines about "Motel Hell" - "We should burn it down. It's an evil motel." Deadpan to it's core, Motel Hell is a classic of it's type.
Previously I owned this on MGM's MIDNITE MOVIES double feature disc (Deranged & Motel Hell [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]) from the US - a decent widescreen DVD and pared with a pretty similar, Ed Gein derived, movie named Deranged [Blu-ray], it was a solid release on the format. Once I bought Arrow's excellent DERANGED blu-ray/dvd combo, I knew it was a matter of time before I'd buy Arrow's Blu-ray of this too. What's to say? Well first of all, I love Arrow's new cover - it's really attractive and might well attract new customers to the film, but because Arrow are classy, they also included the original poster art (which I have variations of on t-shirts and enjoy a lot) which will usually be my preference. The booklet has yet a third piece of art, which would also have made a wonderful cover. The DVD and Blu-ray have matching Vincent and Ida covers too - a nice piece of continuity which made the package attractive. The film, yes, is uncut - I believe once the BBFC cleared the film, it's always been uncut, but I wanted to make sure to mention it. Visually, the film looks fantastic - there is grain but nothing like MGM's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2 blu-ray disc (which I hope Arrow will improve on) - it's never distracting, even in the darkest of night scenes. The daylight scenes are gorgeous, especially the lake during the tubing scene. Detail and depth are fantastic.
Audio is stereo (which is all it's ever had), but thankfully in lossless PCM 2.0. Unlike Dolby Digital lossless tracks, my 5.1 can use that Pro Logic II thing and make a surround sound thing out of PCM tracks, giving me a nice surround sound effect with the music and atmospherics without shoving the dialogue and sound-effects to the rears too. The sound was powerful and the score, while dated, is a lot better than you'd expect for this kind of thing. Detail in the sound was ever-present and I was thankful that the small hiss level was retained - people often take manufacturers to task for noise reduction on video, but not so much on soundtracks, when just as on video signals it does remove detail piece by piece. I'd say this was an accurate presentation of the film, but it's probably never looked this good in any format before, even theatrically.
Extras include a commentary by the (British) director Kevin Connor, a piece celebrating the film with Dave Parker (The Dead Hate the Living, The Hills Run Red), a piece about Ida and women in horror with lady critics and theorists (too lazy to list the names!) and retrospective interviews with both Paul Linke (ostensibly the hero of the film) and Roseanne Katon who had the most interesting perspective on the whole thing. All the featurettes are short, so they don't wear out their welcome at all.
In regards to home-video releases, I never say "never" in regards to improvements - I've been surprised so many times before. But I can safely say, I will never need another version of Motel Hell on blu-ray. The video, audio and extras, at a great price, ensure I am 100% satisfied with the Arrow disc. Thanks again :D
I must admit this was my first viewing of 'Motel Hell' well Motel Hello when the 'O' isn't on the blink.
And am not going to say this was the best horror film I have seen. But I didn't like the thought of being buried alive with your head above ground, this for me is horrible, especially with their voice box being removed, and the sound the victims made was disgusting. But to be honest with you nothing much shocked me after that.
I found the Blu-ray quality to be very nice, so well worth upgrading from your old DVD, and once again Arrow have given the fans some great bonus features, plus the booklet has a four page comic graphic adventure. But what I liked was the revisable sleeve.
A horror story set in a motel has to compete with the masterpiece - "Psycho". "Motel Hell", of course, doesn't come close, but then it doesn't try to. What we have is a delicious little parody of the horror genre, outrageous in places, ironic in others. Rory Calhoun plays the owner of a financially failing motel, but rather than being ruled by his mother, he is ruled by his mother's recipe for smoked meats. He and his sister run a hugely popular business selling jerky and sausage. It's famously delicious, and people come from miles around to sample Farmer Vincent's produce. While the household is locked in to an evangelical television programme, cannibalism and the morality of murdering and eating others is never an issue for them. Farmer Vincent, you see, is a highwayman Sweeney Todd, harvesting unwary travellers at night. Well, you have to wonder what gives his cooked meats such a unique flavour. The whole operation is based on his techniques for tenderising the meat and the produce of his secret garden - don't confuse this with anything from Frances Hodgson Burnett! Director Kevin Connor hails from the UK (this was his first American film), so he references, and satirises, British cultural icons as well as American horror movies. It's a brutally observed spoof horror ("Texas Chainsaw" played as farce), well shot, highly entertaining, and very funny. Watch out for John Ratzenberger (Cliff from 'Cheers', playing a silent role), and the legendary Wolfman Jack turning up as a hustling evangelist. There's satire, there's farce, there's irony, there's some visceral humour, and there's a chainsaw duel! What more could you ask for? Funny, enjoyable production which contrasts nicely with the run-of-the-mill bloodletting of 80's cult horror.