Horror Review: Motel Hell (1980)

People come from far and wide to sample Farmer Vincent’s distinctively flavored dried, smoked sausages, but one might well ask why there are so few people staying at his nearby motel.

I have a love/hate relationship with Horror comedies, for me they have to be done perfectly and be a certain tone. Luckily “Motel Hell” is one of the greats.

The movie’s original screenplay was originally a-lot darker more disturbing piece which included scenes of bestiality, a-lot more violence and was not at all a black comedy. 
Tobe Hooper was originally going to direct this movie for Universal Studios, as great as that sounds I feel it would’ve been too much like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

Director Kevin Connor did a truly great job though and captured the essence of what a Horror comedy should be, dark, intelligent and blatantly over the top. Plus the effects in this feature are absolutely fantastic and keep within the films tone.

The cast are also brilliant, especially Rory Calhoun. He played Vincent Smith perfectly with the eccentricity in overflow yet so lovable, that’s just so hard to capture but he does it with ease.

“Motel Hell” is a fun filled film that any Horror fan would appreciate, if you haven’t already seen it then do yourself a favour and do so.
If you want to see the “Motel Hell” trailer then just click on the video below:
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
The screenplay for this film was written years before it went into production. The film had a difficult time finding backing. In 1978 it was picked up by the Camp Hill Company and was shot and completed in 1980. In all, it was nearly three years from the time the script was written to the final release of the film.
The chainsaws images were inspired by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
The duelling chainsaws was an idea which was conceived during late in production and was not in the original movie script.
Actor ‘Paul Linke’ lost 25 pounds to play the lead. He was carrying the extra weight to play Grossman on CHiPs (1977).
Publicity for this picture stated that it was the first major role in a motion picture in quite a while for lead actor Rory Calhoun. Calhoun was around fifty-seven years old when he starred in this movie.
The ranch house of the Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, California acted as the Motel Office whilst a nearby stables doubled for the Motel itself.
Debut cinema movie as a D.O.P. for cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth.
The movie launched stateside in October 1980 just four months after the famed Broadway season of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) had finished in New York.
A distinctive and famous production still from the film, an image of a bloodied pig-headed character with a chainsaw, made the cover of “Fangoria” magazine.
When Sheriff Smith asks Terri to the movies he says it is Monster That Challenged the World, The (1957). Not only is this a real movie, but the scenes shown were actually from it.
Universal Studios was originally approached with the film, but the studio disliked the film’s bizarre nature so it was rejected. United Artists ultimately picked it up for release.
Interiors of the motel, farm, and smoke-house were filmed on constructed sets at Laird International Studios in Culver City, California. The majority of exteriors and location filming for this picture were shot in Northern California in Canyon County.
Whilst applying for the job as director, Kevin Connor showed the Jaffe Brothers his first film, the horror movie From Beyond the Grave (1974), and after this got to see the script for “Motel Hell”.
MGM DVD released this film on DVD in 2002 on a double-bill with Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile (1974).
The slogan on the banner for Farmer Vincent’s Smoked Meats read “This is it!”

In 2007 & 2008 interviews, director Kevin Connor once explained his involvement on this movie: “In March 1980. I’d been in Los Angeles for three months and was getting nowhere when I decided to collect some tapes from an agent, Bobby Litman. As I walked in to the agency, he came out of his office to refill his coffee mug and saw me. He asked me how I was getting on. “Not so good,” I replied. “Come into the office and I’ll get you a job,” he said. He called another agent who just happened to have had an enquiry for a young director to helm a horror movie. This was Motel Hell!…I told the Jaffe Brothers that I would love to direct the movie as long as it was a black comedy and removing all the unnecessary crudeness. They agreed and that is the movie that you see today… I thoroughly enjoyed it because it was tongue in cheek but you have to play these scenes, and if you notice you never see any gratuitous violence…The black humor appealed to me and it wasn’t in response to any other movie trend…Very pleasant shoot. Nancy Parsons and Rory Calhoun were a delight, as were the rest of the cast and crew. The most challenging thing was probably the dueling chainsaws, the idea for which came up at the last moment. This may have been the greatest victory too…Rory and Nancy were naturals. They loved each other and they certainly didn’t have to work at it”.

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