Motel Hell (1980)
“Checking in is easy … Checking out is hell.”
Director: Kevin Connor
Cast: Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons
Synopsis: A farmer kidnaps passing travellers and adds them to the ingredients for his popular fritters after first fattening them up.
“It takes all kind of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters” is the deliciously ambiguous pun upon which the premise of Kevin Connor’s cult horror flick Motel Hell is built. The tasty meat treats that Vincent (Rory Calhoun – River of No Return, Apache Territory) supplies to the regional community are made from a secret recipe which requires him and his grotesque sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) to kidnap passing motorists and bury them up to their necks for a period of time while they fatten them up. Each victim has their vocal cords cut so that they can’t scream for help and has a paper bag placed over their head to prevent any stray passers-by from seeing them. Sitting in a row like that, they look like young plants being protected from the risk of frost.
Motel Hell creates the kind of scenario that could prove truly chilling if played straight from the viewpoint of a victim, but Connor and screenwriters Robert and Steven-Charles Jaffe play it largely for laughs. Calhoun and Parsons’ character are semi-comical hayseeds, and their younger brother Bruce (Paul Linke) is a small-town cop only a step or two above the likes of Roscoe P. Coltrane. There’s even a couple of swingers straight out of some bad sex comedy who provide some ‘light relief’ before being gassed and planted next to all of the Smith’s other victims.
Motel Hell barely works as either straightforward horror or parody, but screen veteran Calhoun and Parsons (who many will remember from Porkys) give agreeably creepy performances, and the over-the-top finale in which Bruce duels with a man wearing a pig’s head and wielding a chainsaw is unmissable.
(Reviewed 7th November 2014)