For any horror fan who has longed to experience Kevin Connor’s darkly comedic tale of Farmer Vincent and his tasty fritters in high definition, adding Scream Factory’s recent Blu-ray release of Motel Hell to your collection is pretty much a no-brainer. And for the uninitiated, you may be surprised by how well this zany backwoods tale of murder and cannibalistic mayhem holds up almost 35 years since the film was first released.
Motel Hell transports us back to a simpler time when roadside motels were commonplace, young girls on vacation could go missing and no one would ever notice. Unsuspecting travelers would come from near and far to get their hands on some of Farmer Vincent’s (Rory Calhoun) delicious meat products, made from his own special (and quite sinister) blend of ingredients that he and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) create fresh each and every day for all their loyal customers. Of course, it doesn’t take much for viewers to put two and two together for Motel Hell- Connor’s not shy by any means in revealing that Vincent and Ida are using human flesh for their recipes, keeping a secret garden of victims on a remote part of their property as a way to replenish their inventory. And there are plenty of cannibal-themed shenanigans in store for viewers once a young woman named Terry (Nina Axelrod) is taken in by Vincent and Ida, eventually discovering all their dastardly and delicious secrets.
Written and produced by Steven-Charles and Robert Jaffe, Motel Hell is a rather well-executed dark comedy that plays it fairly straight, much thanks to the outstanding performances from both Calhoun and Parsons, who give the film a nice sense of gravity even against the film’s more cartoonish supporting characters. And despite the fact that the premise of Motel Hell goes a bit off the rails in the final act of the film, Connor elevates the material with a nice balance of disturbing imagery (voiceless victims buried up to their necks- still creepy as hell) and several iconic chainsaw-wielding moments of violence to make for an unforgettable slasher/cannibal mash-up that remains a ton of fun for fans of classic horror comedies.
As expected, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation of Motel Hell has pretty much everything a Farmer Vincent fan could possibly want. The picture quality isn’t necessarily great overall, but leaps and bounds superior to the DVD release of the film from a few years back, which should please the die-hards looking for any kind of improvement. The real reason to grab Motel Hell on Blu-ray is all the extras Scream has packed in their release, lovingly paying homage to some of the film’s more quirkier aspects like Paul Linke’s hapless sheriff character or how wonderfully crazy and integral Parsons’ character Ida was in making Motel Hell a cult classic over the years.
There are also a few commentaries included with Motel Hell that are definitely worth checking out for fans (let’s just say that the Jaffes’ pull no punches in their commentary or in their interviews for one of the featurettes) and Scream also throws in a couple of photo galleries that were kind of cool (some interesting reveals on the garden scenes are featured in the BTS gallery). And, as expected, there’s also the requisite theatrical trailer in there for good measure. All in all, there are lots of goodies included on the Motel Hell Blu-ray, which will keep fans busy and well-entertained for hours and hours.
While the picture quality may not necessarily be a technical marvel, there’s still a lot to love and appreciate in Scream Factory’s Motel Hell Blu. It’s wholeheartedly a much better presentation than fans have ever had before and all the bonus materials included do a fantastic job of celebrating Connor’s underrated horror comedy classic in truly splendid fashion.
Movie Score: 3.5/5, Disc Score: 4/5