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Motel Hell

Farmer Vincent has been producing quality jerky in this neck of the woods for over 30 years now, and people come from miles around just to eat his…um…meat. Right. Starting over.

Farmer Vincent has been producing quality jerky in this neck of the woods for over 30 years now, and at only $2.99 a pound, nobody else can beat his…erm…meat. Unbelievable. One more time.

Farmer Vincent prides himself on being humane to his animals. Nobody pounds his hog like…oh hell. Nobody hits the ham like…he’d rather milk the bull than choke his chi- just forget it.

Rory Calhoun is Farmer Vincent, a man who hides a secret ingredient in his quality smoked meats: human flesh. By setting traps on the highway (and all of this is revealed in the first five minutes of the film) Vincent clears the world of wayward hippies and feeds the hungry all at the same time. His baby sister Ida is more than happy to help him, while little brother Bruce (a.k.a. Grossman from CHiPs!), who just happens to be the local Sheriff, doesn’t have a clue as to why his brother’s meat is so darn tasty. Damn it.

Of course, this is played for laughs more than chills. One of Vincent’s traps consists of a few cardboard paintings of cows in the road – complete with smiling faces. Equally funny is the sight of his special garden – a dozen or so victims at any given time (one of whom is John Ratzenberger), buried up to their necks with feeding tubes attached to funnels so they can be easily fattened up before the slaughter.

Calhoun makes this all work; I can’t imagine any other actor in the role and, with over 80 films and 1,000 television episodes to his credit (including perennial Paynecraft favorite “Pure Country”), I’m amazed to see him in this. Even then the guy was a legend, having previously worked with Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Susan Hayward and Robert Mitchum among others. His cowboy good looks and charming, Pearl Drops smile make for a wonderfully funny and surreal killer.

That doesn’t mean there’s no quality horror here though: One scene involves a chainsaw fight in which one of the participants is wearing a severed pig head while, on a conveyer belt nearby, an innocent victim moves closer to being sliced and diced. It’s surprisingly tense for a film this light.

“Motel Hell”, while not usually mentioned in the same breath as “Friday the 13th” or “Prom Night”, is still considered a classic, and deservedly so. It’s quirky, worth a peek and, even 25 years later, sure to butter your corn.

A bizarre bit of trivia: Bruce takes in a drive in flick during the film. The movie he watches? An obscure 1957 flick called “The Monster That Challenged The World” – the only giant monster movie I’ve ever reviewed.

Pros: Classic old-school dark humor and gore combo that doesn’t take itself seriously. Rory Calhoun kicks ass…
Cons: …but Nina Axelrod, as his love interest Terry, most decidedly does not. She does boast nice sternum protectors though.
Review Rating: 3 out of 5 gurgling throat sounds.

Motel Hell” (1980)
102 Minutes; USA
Rated R for violence, nudity and language.

Starring:
Rory Calhoun (Vincent Smith)
Paul Linke (Sheriff Bruce Smith)
Nancy Parsons (Ida Smith)
Nina Axelrod (Terry)
Wolfman Jack (Reverend Billy)
Elaine Joyce (Edith Olson)
Directed by: Kevin Connor
Written by: Robert Jaffe, Steven-Charles Jaffe and Tim Tuchrello (uncredited)
Viewing Format: DVD. Now quit masturbating or you’ll go blind, and then you won’t be able to watch it. Sicko.

(Originally published on HorrorWatch)

About John Daily

John is a freelance writer, columnist and critic. His work has appeared in print, as well as on sites such as ScifiWatch and HorrorWatch (where he wrote under the complete meaningless moniker “Bloody Taco”). An archive of his film-related material is available at cinemaspin.wordpress.com. Currently, he can be found spouting his special brand of sarcastic nonsense at CigarHell.com or Twitter (JohnNDaily).

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