Motel Hell (1980): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray/DVD]

I’ve seen “Motel Hell” almost five times in the last two years and goodness knows I’ve tried so hard to love it. At risk of getting my horror fan boy card revoked, I sincerely do not like “Motel Hell.” Kevin Connors’ horror comedy is a silly and often dull attempt to ape “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” I’m one who has often found much of what unfolds in “Motel Hell” absolutely dull and monotonous with the attempts at absurdity kind of forced and tedious. It’s almost like “Eaten Alive” where there’s another effort to catch lightning in a bottle that just doesn’t quite hit its mark. And I’d still rather see Tobe Hooper’s “Eaten Alive” than ever really re-watch “Motel Hell” ever again.

I know what it’s going for, and understand its cult legacy as a revered slasher and cannibal horror film, as well as a drive in title, but nothing about it has ever actually entertained me. Running the (sigh…) Motel Hello Inn, we meet owners and brother and sister Vincent and Ida, both of whom also have a side business where they sell some of the tastiest and most delectable meats around. Little does anyone know that their successful meat business is comprised of various travelers on the road. They’re snared, kidnapped, lobotomized, planted like human cabbage, murdered like cattle, and then turned in to smoked goods for tourists. Soon, though, Vincent’s brother and police officer Bruce figures out that something sinister is afoot. Meanwhile Vincent kidnaps a survivor of one his and Ida’s booby traps, and she begins to fall for Vincent, and lunacy ensues.

All in all I’ve always approached “Motel Hell” in a take it or leave it, kind of fashion, heavily leaning on an “I’d rather not watch it” mind set. There’s no inherent terror or disturbing element to the narrative. None, however, that really touched on certain chords like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or even “Halloween” did. There are hypnotized victims of both psychotic farmers that endure grueling deaths, and Vincent, the chainsaw wielding maniac with a pig head, but it all feels so painfully cobbled together. Especially when there’s an almost obvious comic tone forced in to the deaths of Farmer Vincent’s victims. “Motel Hell” just feels like a big spoof of a sub-genre that hadn’t even been fully realized for another eight years. I think had “Motel Hell” arrived much later, maybe it would have served as a more fitting satire than anything else.

There are just so many more horror movies out there worthy of a restoration than “Motel Hell”; in either case, Scream Factory packs this new edition to the brim with new artwork to boot. “It Takes All Kinds: The Making of Motel Hell” is a twenty four minute compendium of interviews and is delightfully obscene. “Shooting Old School with Thomas Del Ruth” is a fifteen minute discussion with the film’s cinematographer, and “Ida, Be Thy Name: The Frightful Females of Fear” which is an eighteen minute look at Ida Vincent, and what comprises a great female horror villain.

“From Glamour to Gore: Rosann Katon Remembers Motel Hell” is an interview with one of Farmer Vincent’s victims in the movie, as well as “Another Head on the Chopping Block: An Interview with Paul Linke” which talks to the cop from the film. There’s the original “Motel Hell” trailer, and a Behind the Scenes Gallery clocking in at two and a half minutes. There’s also a Production and Movie Poster Gallery. Finally, there’s an audio commentary with Director Kevin Connor, as moderated by Dave Parker.