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Motel Hell – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Motel-HellAs I mentioned in the press release for the Blu-ray release of Motel Hell from Scream Factory, I have never seen Motel Hell before.  However, when you say the title, I can describe every detail of its VHS box art for you.  This thing was an absolute staple in the horror section at VHS rental stores back in the 80s and 90s.  Even the tape rental section at the local grocery stores carried this one.  And at every video store I always had the goal to watch every horror movie in the horror section.  But, I’ve obvioulsy failed as I never ever picked this one up.  I have no idea why, I just might have thought the box looked more weird than scary.  Back then I always went home with whatever I thought would frighten the living bejeezus out of me.

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Film 

Meet Vincent Smith and his sister Ida live on farm that also has a motel attached.  The Motel Hello, except the neon light on the O flickers.  Vincent is renowned for his meat smoking, which is to be the best in the area.  But that delicious meat?  Oh yeah, its human.  Vincent and Ida keep a “garden” which harvests their human victims until they are ready to be cooked.  When out hunting for victims, Vincent snags Bo and Terry.  He puts Bo in the garden, but decides to keep Terry with them at the hotel.  The other brother in the family, Bruce is the Sheriff and he’s pretty naive as to what’s going on.  Things start to unfold as Ida starts to become jealous of Vincent’s fondness of Terry and Bruce, out of jealousy of Terry crushing on Vincent begins to discover what’s been going on under his nose.

I’m sort of glad I didn’t see Motel Hell until now.  At an age where I full understand and can appreciate the kind of movie this is.  Its something that is clearly laid out as a comedy before I watch it.  At the video store, it just would have been in the horror section and I’d have picked it up wanting to be scared and not been in tune with all the jokes and weirdness.  Now, I can really take an enjoyment for what a real unique kind of movie this is and laugh with it and enjoy all the sort of Midnight Movie qualities that come with it.

Motel Hell is really a type of film you don’t get anymore.  Its just in that sort of weird “let’s just run with this” kind of comedy horror.  It doesn’t quite devote its entire duration to jokes and whatnot.  It does want to disturb you and revel in a sort of weirdness.  In fact I’d say most of the film is devoted to the weirdness factor.  The film very much feels like it wants to be a satire on the sort of Texas Chainsaw/Hills Have Eyes/Tourist Trap kind of movie.  But, while it features a setup like those, it features kind of its own way of telling it.  I also think some of it would even later influence Tobe Hooper Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s sequel a few years later.

Where things are different here is that this movie focuses mostly on our deranged cannibal farmers instead of some sort of heroic protagonist.  The film keeps no secrets from us, naturally revealing everything that is going on in the first act.  By doing this, it also allows us to have some fun with Vincent and his kills during the 2nd act of the film.  It brings about crazy things like a rock band and a S&M swinging couple.  I guess our heroes are Bruce and Terry (played by my revisionist history 80s crush Nina Axelrod.  What a babe!), but they just sort of hang around and fall into all of this later on.  Our stars are clearly Vincent and Ida.

Motel Hell may not have been the smashing success the makers may have hoped for, but instead of financially succeeding they have done so in many more ways.  This thing was a staple and mom and pop VHS rental stores in the 80s/90s and became a cult classic with a big big international fanbase.  Its also shown plenty of influence to the genre of horror for may decades.  Looking at this film you can clearly see this as an inspiration for someone like Rob Zombie as much as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was for him.  I think its definitely a good movie for that Midnight Movie vibe of being strange, out there and providing some laughs.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: This is a really solid job done by Scream Factory.  I love that this isn’t overdone.  Its just right.  The picture runs a little more on the soft side, but detail is pretty surprising, including plenty of visible woods grain and blood spats and wrinkles on the pig mask.

Depth:  A decent amoutn of depth is present, especially presnet in the “garden” scenes.

Black Levels:  Black causes a little bit of crushing here and there, but is a little on the lighter side due to the grain.

Color Reproduction:  The colors are really nicely ever present without crazily radiating on the screen.  They look very nice and lifelike.  Greens pop a little bit.

Flesh Tones:  Consistent and a little lighter in tone.

Noise/Artifacts: Some dark interior scenes get pretty grainy and there’s some specs and direct randomly throughout.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This is a solid track with some really good moments.  Volume is intentionally a little lower because some of the music cues are set at a higher volume to evoke a reaction.  Effects are dynamic and crisp.  The score sounds really good here too.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is center focused, clean and clear.  It seems a little low, but the intent is to jolt you with louder music setting.  At a couple points there’s some muffling, but that’s likely a part of the source.

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Extras 

Motel Hell comes with a DVD copy of the film as well.  It also has reversible cover art featuring the original poster art.  Not really an extra, but I believe this is the first title to feature not only a new Shout! Factory logo, but actually have a Scream Factory logo on the disc.  Yeah, that sort of excited me.

Commentary With Director Kevin Connor, Moderated By Filmmaker Dave Parker – The director of The Hills Run Red (also big Motel Hell Fan) leads track that provides more in depth insight as an extension of the featurettes.  There are a lot of times they just sort of are watching the film or enjoying it together and comment on things going on onscreen.

It Takes All Kinds: The Making Of Motel Hell (HD, 24:33) – Interviews with the films creators that weave together to tell the story of bringing Motel Hell to life.  Also features one of the actors from the band in the movie.

Shooting Old School With Thomas Del Ruth (HD, 15:45) – Motel Hell’s DP takes you through a history of his career and shooting the film.  He adds a lot more onset anecdotes than just how he shot the film.

Ida, Be Thy Name: The Frightful Females Of Fear (HD, 18:09) – Some female writers/critics and some scream queens discuss women villains in horror history.  There is a focus on Ida from Motel Hell, of course but also a little focus on Betsy Palmer in Friday The 13th and Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, too.  Its another terrific “females in horror” piece on one of these Collector’s Editions that compliments the Ginger Snaps one from last month.

From Glamour To Gore: Rosanne Katon Remembers Motel Hell (HD, 11:28) – The actress who played Suzi recalls her scene from the film as well as her career.

Another Head On The Chopping Block: An Interview With Paul Linke (HD, 14:52) – The actor who played Bruce recalls his work on the film (including insight on the chainsaw fight) and relationships with the cast and crew.

Motel Hell Trailer (HD, 2:40) 

Behind The Scenes Gallery – 18 images from the shoot featuring some set shots and people hanging out.

Posters And Production Gallery – 131 images of posters, alternate poster artwork, lobby cards, and a ton of promotional photos and character photos.

More From Scream Factory – Trailers for The Funhouse, Terror Train, The Fog, Without Warning

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Summary 

Once again, this time with Motel Hell, Scream Factory delivers the definitive version of yet another horror cult classic.  Motel Hell looks and sounds better than ever.  Its got a bunch of great, educational and fun interviews that don’t just limit themselves to the film itself but also shed light on the careers of some of its players before and after the film.  Plus, you get Nina Axelrod, looking gorgeous, on Blu-ray.  Wish she had more notable roles to her career instead of casting them.  This is a super fun release and a great piece to have in your collection.  I feel Motel Hell is definitely that film you’ll go back to over and over and maybe quote some lines here and there.  Well, I’m late to the party on this one, so people probably already do, but no you can do it with this great Blu-ray of it!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Motel Hell – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    God if any movie screams Brandon must-own, this is it!