Saturday, January 19, 2008

Review: Motel Hell (1980) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Motel Hell
Starring: Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nina Axelrod, Nancy Parsons
Directed By: Kevin Conner
Written By: Robert Jaffe, Steven-Charles Jaffe
Released: 1980
Grade: B+

In many horror movies, killers use some justifications for their sins. It is often revenge, but sometimes it is more complex than that. In Se7en, it was the theory that everyone is a sinner and that those that sinned are the ones who should be killed as a way of setting an example. In Saw, Jigsaw’s justification was that he was determining the strength and intelligence that humans possessed. However, Motel Hell has the most bizarre justification I have heard thus far. The justification for the killing in this film is that by killing, the population problem is being taken care of. This makes it appear that there is nothing personal or evil about it. It is simply what one has to do in order to have the proper amount of people populating the world.

Farmer Vincent (Calhoun) owns his own farm out in the country. He butchers meat as well. This meat is thought of as the best there is. It is only administered to those who live in the area though. This is because he has a limited amount of meat. What most people don’t know though is that this meat consists of more than one animal. Sure he uses the typical cows and pigs, but he also uses the meat of humans. Farmer Vincent and his sister, Ida (Parsons), are on the look out for human flesh. They trap any humans who happen to be roaming around. This is where they get creative though. They don’t simply trap and kill them, but the set up the illusion of growing them. Farmer Vincent buries the bodies alive in the ground. The victim’s vocal chords are ripped out so they can’t scream for help. They can’t really move either; they are merely helpless vegetables. The farmer has a whole field of these people. He later skins them and adds them to his meat recipe, thus turning his whole town in to cannibals without even knowing it.

When two teenagers wander in to the town, they fall in to one of Farmer Vincent’s traps. The boy is taken to be one of the farmer’s newest victims. However, he takes the girl, Terry (Axelrod), in to his home. She temporarily stays there and tries to get acquainted as she gets over the loss of her boyfriend. Meanwhile, she has the farmer’s brother, Sheriff Bruce, constantly hitting on her. Terry however, ironically, becomes closer to Farmer Vincent instead. This causes a strike of jealousy to Ida. Ida is used to being the only women in Vincent’s life. She is not ready to share him and she tries to turn on Terry. However, her plan backfires and they end up planning a wedding. Terry still really doesn’t know what she is getting in to though. When she finds out the horrors that her new fiancé commits on a daily basis, will she still want to spend her life with him? Will she want to be a part of these horrors? If not, she may become one of his many victims just as her boyfriend was.

Motel Hell thrives on the ideas and themes that are a part of the film. As I mentioned before, the idea of justification through controlling the population is very strong. It is something new and original, especially for a movie that is almost 30 years old. It is wild, because it is possible that serial killers could very well think that way. Both the farmer and his sister seem so nonchalant about the whole thing. At one point, Ida, walks in to the garden and greets one of the “vegetables” like she would her neighbor on any other day. It is no big deal to them, it is just part of their routine and growing their garden. Yet they do it in a sarcastic way that let’s you in to their minds a little more. The whole thing is done in such a way that we kind of know it’s all a joke. It has to be, because the whole thing seems so ridiculous. There is no cruelty to their voices although there is in their actions. It is as if these killers are evil, and knowing what they are doing, but like they actually have convinced themselves that they are perfectly normal.

The gore in the movie correlates with the actions accurately. There is enough gore to show the threat the farmers impose. Yet this movie wasn’t made solely for the gore. It has others things in mind as well and it hits all of the bases as it should. The dialogue in Motel Hell is absolutely hilarious. This is because the situation is so out there. Since the killers act as if they are doing nothing wrong, the situational irony alone gives you plenty of laughs. Not to mention that the dialogue alone was written very well. The audience knows the horrors that are going on and we watch Terry fall in to a trap that we know she will have a hell of a time getting out of. Yet, we don’t so much fear for her, as much as we just enjoy watching the movie. It is very well paced and you kind of just don’t care as much about other things. You just enjoy watching it as it goes along because it is so entertaining that it controls your attention second by second.

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