It’s time to grab your chainsaw’s, pig heads and (if you have one) a crazy murderous sister because Kevin Connor’s cult classic is finally released in the UK. This little seen camp horror slasher is one of those oddities that just keeps giving in each of its bizarre moments. This is by far, one uniquely deranged and twisted treat that will delight all fans of the genre or those looking to try something a little stranger.
In a small Hick town, Farmer Vincent and his sister Ida run a ramshackle motel (Motel Hello with the O flickering on an off). Vincent is known throughout the county for his legendary smoked meat, little do the townsfolk know that Vincent and Ida have booby-trapped the motel to snare their secret ingredients – human flesh. But can Vincent and Ida’s estranged brother Sheriff Bruce, finally put a stop to them?
While Motel Hell might be far from achieving the cult status of some of other 80’s horror films (Evil Dead 2, Fright Night and Day of the Dead to name a few), it does have a bizarre charm that will instantly rub off on genre film enthusiasts. It certainly has moments of distinctly twisted humour – fans of BBC’s League of Gentlemen series will find lots to appreciate and cringe at.
Although it could be considered tame by modern horror standards, it does have a handful of standout moments ranging from the appearance of well-known faces (such as John Ratzenberger and Wolfman Jack), through to warped torture methods used by the siblings. A particularly unsettling moment has the killer duo lording it over their vegetable patch of human heads, feeding them a revolting slop.
Another deranged moment appears later on as the film provides its own take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – substituting human flesh for a pig skin mask. It’s a deliciously tongue-in-cheek moment due to it being blissfully aware of its own horror conventions. This is possibly due to Connor’s background in camp sci-fi from the mid-70’s – such as Warlords of Atlantis and The Land That Time Forgot.
The humour, which rears its head during the film, has a distinctly British sensibility. There’s something darkly comic about the situations, even the bumbling cop hero has an air of Carry On, all of which could explain its uniquely strange appeal.
At the end of the day Motel Hell is an odd film to rate; ultimately it’s down to ones preference or to ones tolerance of camp horror. It’s without a doubt a curious little oddity and one that deserves a screening – mainly with a bunch of friends – to really enjoy its ludicrousness.
Once again Arrow Video have come up trumps with another stellar release for such a little seen feature – 2013 is really shaping up to be Arrow’s year after a few issues. For a film this obscure, they have produced a worthwhile remastered edition and one that shows them finally hitting a quality stride as a premier cult film label.
Barring the wonderful image enhancement, Motel Hell is chockfull of quality extras that will excite long-time fans. A director’s commentary with Kevin Connor (moderated by Arrow collaborator Callum Waddell) along with a cornucopia of featurettes with the film’s cast members, through to lecturers and other horror directors providing their insight.
A few final highlights of this release include: Arrow’s standard reversible artwork (this time from artist Jeff Zornow) and a collectable booklet with an essay from film critic Kim Newman. This is yet another fine release from the vaults – fingers crossed that Arrow’s future releases this year continue on a similar streak. Just be wary if someone says; Meat’s meat, a man’s gotta eat.