Motel Hell

Checking in is easy... Checking out is hell.

Year of Release: 1980
Genre: Horror/Comedy
Rated: R
Running Time: 101 minutes (1:41)
Director: Kevin Conner


Rory Calhoun ... Vincent Smith
Paul Linke ... Bruce Smith
Nancy Parsons ... Ida Smith
Nina Axelrod ... Terry
Wolfman Jack ... Reverend Billy
John Ratzenberger ... Drummer


"Meat is meat, and man's gotta eat!"

That was always Granny's philosophy. And that's the way folks still think over at the Motel Hello where the proprietor, Farmer Vincent, mixes up his special blend of smoked meats. Heck, everybody in the county just loves Farmer Vincent's sausages and hams - there's nothin' quite like 'em.

But what's that we've heard tell about strangers just disappearing when they're passing by Vincent's motel? And what are those odd things planted in Vincent's "secret garden" that he tends only in the dead of night? And, gosh, what are those strange carcasses Vincent has hangin' in the smokehouse?

The Motel Hello is open for business folks, but be wary if you're asked to stay for dinner.


Motel Hell, remindin' us that God works in mysterious ways... one of which involves Reverend Wolfman Jack confiscatin' your Hustler to protect you from developin' your own set of wolfman palms. Which on the one hand is kinda obnoxious, bein' that you've got a collection datin' back to 1982 that you'd like to keep intact, but on the other, it's kinda nice knowin' that your personal relationship with the big guy is ensurin' you don't end up doin' any excessive sinnin' that can't be smoothed over by droppin' a coupla extra bucks in the collection tray. An keepin' in the spirit of the inspirational spiritual themes on display in this week's movie, I'd like to share with you guys a miracle that I personally bore witness to this past week that enabled me to reaffirm my own personal faith in the G-man. Much as I'm ashamed to admit it, my faith was kinda startin' to get a little shaky after not only havin' the Barcalounger stolen offa the patio, but also havin' my pet possum, Shankles, picked up by animal control all in the same day. Now, the interestin' part happened while I was up at Rin Tin Minh's Crossbar Hotel for Wayward House Pets an Fine Vietnamese Cuisine bailin' Shankles out before anybody realized his rabies shots were overdue an tried stickin' me with a bill for $14.99 an the privilege of bein' stuck with a P.O.'d possum all afternoon. But like I was sayin', Shankles was exercisin' his 7th amendment right to a trial an claimin' wrongful arrest err... well actually, mostly he was appealin' his sentence an mosta the pectoral muscle offa Shanghai Muttley who'd hauled 'im in for disturbin' the geese out at Skunky Hernandez' ranch an well, I mighta pulled a little too hard on Shankles tryin' to get his furry butt back in the Topaz, an, lets just say I owe Shanghai some money. The important part, though, is that Shankles tore off enougha Shanghai's man boob to expose this real nasty tumor that the vet was able to remove usin' those wicked lookin' tweezers he had to use to pull the quills outta Apollo (my boxer) after he got into it with Pokey, who lives next door an holds the current record for most consecutive victories in the annual porcupine races. The vet says Shanghai's gonna be just fine an that in time he'll make a full recovery, even though he's too P.O.'d to come by an shoot skeet offa the roof with me now cause he's real self conscious about that plastic cone around his neck. Anyway, it just goes to show ya that everything happens for a reason, an that God never closes a door without openin' a nipple.

But gettin' back to Motel Hell, this one's gotta be about the best spoof of Tobe Hooper movies ever made to feature Beulah Balbricker plantin' Cliff Clavin up to his neck in the dirt out in 'er bumpkin patch, an so I've cobbled together a few helpins of thought provokin' ruralite wisdom to help folks become as intellectually attuned as those of us who've had the privilege of viewin' this classic. First, the heart wants what it wants. An sometimes that happens to be a man 3x your age who once killed his granny's dog an smoked it into Jack Russell jerky. Second, any man willin' to swap partners for a roll in the hay with Beulah's the kinda guy who's prolly gonna be evolutionarily phased out pretty quick. Particularly if she accepts said swapportunity. An third, any inner tube that'll keep Beulah afloat is an inner tube that I want in my tires. I sure hope Kevin Conner got a boat loada money outta Firestone for that product placement, cause it's 34 years later an this flick's still sellin' radials. But somethin' that grabbed my attention about this one that I'd like to touch on in greater detail is compatibility. See, Rory Calhoun's got these two businesses that he's tryin' to run concurrently an, well, bless his heart, Rory's motel business just isn't pullin' its weight. I think the problem here is that between the smell of the pig pen out front an bein' downwind from the butcher shed, it's just kind of an off-puttin' place for anybody who's thinkin' about haulin' that special someone out to a nice motel to try gettin' 'em to do alla those gross things in bed that they'll never do at home. Don't get me wrong, the decor in Rory's place is pretty darn snazzy, it's just that, well, your lady friend might get disgusted about the idea of makin' the sign of the triple jointed rock wallaby while listenin' to the pigs outside lappin' up last week's expired cream of meat. An as far as I can see, Rory makes most of his meat selections out on the highway, rather than his motel clientele, so the meat smokin' business really ain't benefittin' from the motel side of it even before you consider he's gonna wanna keep the guests alive so he can hock boxes of Hitman's Samplers. I just feel that maybe if Rory moved the pig troughs an entrail pails a little farther away, or invested in some of those pine scented car fresheners for the guest rooms, he'd have two extremely successful businesses instead of one. We are talkin' about the God fearin' Midwest after all, an a man *needs* a place to take his run-away teenage prostitutes so the market is definitely there, I'm just thinkin' if Rory'll make a few minor adjustments he could really be onto somethin' here. That's just my own personal opinion, of course, an I'll support Rory no matter what decision he makes, but I just feel like I need to be constructive an do what I can to help folks out whenever possible.

The movie begins with a good ole boy (Vincent) sittin' out on the front porch watchin' his buzzy motel sign flickerin' like that kid from the back row in kindergarten that always had his finger in his nose til he gets up to check on his sister (Ida) who's fallen asleep watchin' Reverend Stephen King condemnin' homos to Hell on the Jerry Falwell Peace, Love, and Harmony special. Then he grabs his thirty-ought-six an heads out to the highway an stakes out some ideal snipe country til these two goobs on a combination bike come tearin' by an Vinnie hasta put a coupla rounds in their front tire cause he figures anybody wearin' that much leather hasta be of the homosexual persuasion. So once the bike comes to a complete stop an the riders've soared though the air like the mortarboards of the kids in their senior class who actually graduated, an skidded for thirty or forty yards down the asphalt til they look like patients in the acid burn ward of an Iranian women's hospital, Vinnie backs his truck up to 'em an puts the girl (Terry) in the passenger seat an chunks 'er boyfriend in the back with the other road kill he's been accumulatin' over the past week an heads for home. Evidently, Vinnie's huntin' blind's in the next state over, cause by the time he gets home it's mornin' an he ends up carryin' Terry inside where Beulah Balbricker's cookin' up some breakfast an tryin' to come up with a plan to convince Mr. Carter to expel that no good Tommy Turner. So Vinnie carries Terry upstairs an gets Beulah to doctor 'er up so they'll have somebody around to muck out Beulah's sty while Vinnie heads downstairs to hock some Leperidge Farms meat samplers to the guests who're checkin' out. Only their rotten kids wander over to Vinnie's butcher shed an start pokin' around til somebody wearin' the severed head of Arnold Ziffel scares the tar out of 'em an the family drive their insufferable white-bread asses outta there. Vinnie ain't got time for this nonsense cause he's got a lotta hogs to drain to get alla his prom committee orders filled, but about that time the heat shows up an when the officer (Bruce) comes inside Beulah jumps outta the closet an puts the sleeper hold on 'im like Roddy Piper til he says "aunt." Then Vinnie comes in an tells 'er to quit chokin' out his little brother til Terry emerges from 'er room an starts demandin' to know what happened to Gnarly Pavedson, an so everybody peters on out to the cemetery an Vinnie explains to Bruce that he had to bury the guy cause if he smelled that bad after bein' dead for only five minutes there's a good chance that the fumes comin' off of 'im might burn a hole in the ozone layer if left unchecked. Course, Bruce lets 'im get away with it so he won't hafta be on the receivin' end of any atomic wedgies an lets 'im off with a warnin' so Vinnie can get back to feedin' these hogs that all got fur like an Oreo cookie til the vet (Bob) drops in to check out the hogs an see how many successful pregnancies he was able to get off the night before while everybody was asleep.

Cept then he starts hearin' weird noises comin' from the butcher shed an when he gets up next to the door Vinnie comes out an scares the bejezus out of 'im til he gets brown faced in this big mud puddle an storms off insistin' Vinnie'll never be able to prove those piglets're his even though they've all got the same horn rimmed glasses an Lewis Skolnick physique he does. So later that night, Bob sneaks into the cemetery an starts lookin' for a good place to plant Vinnie so he won't get stuck payin' child support to half the farmers in the tri-county area, only once he gets in there he finds Gnarly buried up to his neck with a burlap sack over his head makin' noises like Rush Limbaugh packin' away a bucket of buffalo wings til Vinnie clubs 'im from behind an smiles bigger'n Beulah when she spots an all you can eat buffet. Awhile later, Cliff Clavin an his Commie death metal band're headin' down the highway lookin' for adventure, but prolly not what ends up comin' their way, cause pretty quick they drive over a coupla strategically placed bear traps that Vinnie's stuck in the road an they end up rollin' their van an gettin' tossed around til they're hammered an fickle. Then Vinnie strolls up an sprays some D.D.T. in the window so they'll be parasite free an groggier'n a hungover fratboy on a Wednesday afternoon an loads 'em up in the International Harvester an heads back to the house to grab Beulah. So once he gets home he shows Beulah the catch of the day an reminds 'er that he catches 'em an she cleans 'em before they head out to the cemetery where Beulah sits down next to Bob an Gnarly an makes fun of 'em for the surgical speech impediments she gave 'em with 'er fillet knife. Only Vinnie's gotta get up real early to bus a fresh load of chickens over to the local GOP headquarters on account them porkin' their old ones to death an so he tells Beulah to quit screwin' with people's heads an starts augerin' holes in the ground so she can plant Red Zeppelin in the dirt an cut the first amendment rights outta their windpipes. The next mornin', Vinnie, Beulah, Terry, an Bruce go out picnickin' an Vinnie tells Terry the story about how his Granny got real P.O.'d about the way 'er dog kept showin' up in Danish porno an so he decided to grab 'imself a Korean cook book an carve it up into Malameat before smokin' it like a dimebag at Tommy Chong's house. Then Beulah gets a little over excited an just about spills the secret ingredient in the Bush's Baked Genes til Vinnie hasta sock 'er right in the whammery gland to keep 'er quiet as Terry an Bruce excuse themselves an make plans to go to the drive-in to watch somethin' even scarier'n Beulah in a two-piece try takin' over the world. So later that night, Vinnie an Beulah head out to the bumpkin patch to stuff the denizens of the field of screams fulla Miracle Grow while Bruce an Terry hit the passion pit so they can turn on the siren in the police cruiser an watch more panicked, naked people flee for safety than that time the cops came by Heidi Fleiss's house solicitin' donations for the local police toy drive.

Then Bruce radios down to the projection booth (they're on a hill behind the drive-in) to run the sound over the CB radio before he decides to tell everybody watchin' the flick about the John Boehner spray tan they've been mixin' in with the nacho sauce to keep it lookin' fresh after its been open for two weeks. Meanwhile, Vinnie heads back out to the highway an props up a buncha cardboard Holstein mockups that he found in the dumpster behind the Chick-Fil-A, til these two hookers show up an while one of 'em's movin' the corrugated cattle outta the road Vinnie gives 'er the ole chloroform cocktail napkin. Only the passenger goes on a cattle drive of 'er own an Vinnie hasta jump in the pickup an rear end 'er harder'n that last John who had the crooked dong with the speed bumps implanted in it while she's screamin' into 'er CB radio about how all the junk in 'er trunk's gettin' plowed in til Vinnie finally runs 'er off the road an pushes 'er car into a lake an all the fish start floatin' belly-up due to exposure to toxic junk funk. Unfortunately, like most of 'er clients, Bruce ends up catchin' 'er transmission an tears off to investigate but comes up emptier'n the tip jar at Surly Ray's Tattoo Parlor an 24 hour Circumcision Clinic before headin' over to Vinnie's place where Vinnie's rentin' a room to these two trysexuals who think he an Beulah're a couple an want 'em to come by later for a ho down. Then Beulah explains to Bruce that she'd kicked the scanner on to listen in on whose abstinence only educated daughter'd got caught stuffin' a baby into a truck stop trash bin an heard a report that the girl screamin' for help was just some kid playin' a prank an that he should prolly just head on home an check out his latest issue of Swather Sluts magazine. Meanwhile, the blonde petri dish's gotten dressed up like a domineerin' Italian sofa an started smearin' KY jelly all over 'er Gallagher-esque gimp boyfriend who's now wearin' a clear plastic skirt, til Vinnie an Beulah come by with some rope an the two sinners for disease control get these looks on their faces like they just walked in on a 50% off everything sale at Frau Dildeaux's House of Pain an allow themselves to be tied up an gassed like a coupla Kurds in Saddam's torture chamber. The next mornin', Vinnie an Terry have a nice heart-to-heart about how she's welcome here at the farm for as long as she likes an that he'd be happy to teach 'er how to smoke some pigs on account of the quickest way to a man's heart bein' through the worms in a chunk of improperly cooked pork. So Terry perks up like a clamped nipple an heads out to the butcher shed where Beulah grabs ahold of 'er like Tommy Turner's plumbin' snake in the shower scene from Porky's, til Terry explains that Vinnie wants to teach 'er about the family business an Beulah gets so excited that she has to take 'er out toobin' in the pond. Then they splash around for awhile til Terry's jigglers're wetter'n a pair of middle aged panties at a Josh Groban concert an Beulah's psycho switch randomly flips over to Ferguson, Missouri P.D. an she takes a razor to 'er own inner tube so Terry'll try to rescue 'er.

Course, once she does, Beulah starts dunkin' 'er like Michael Jordan in an NBA All-Star game til Vinnie shows up an breaks it up before Terry gets water-logged, an hauls 'er back to the motel while Beulah tries appealin' the ruling. After awhile, Terry wakes up in bed back at the motel an Beulah apologizes an pretends she only acted that way cause she was afraid that the 250lb bloatation device she calls a keister wasn't gonna be enough to keep 'er offa the bottom an takes off. Then Terry starts goin' for Vinnie's farm fresh eggs to show 'im how appreciative she is of 'im savin' 'er life an Vinnie has to recoil like he just stuck his hand in the dish water an found a half-eaten baked potato before explainin' to 'er that he can't settle 'er hash browns right now cause he's makin' bacon in the out in the shed an plus they ain't hitched. So Vinnie goes to talk to Wolfman Jack about how many packages of sausage patties it's gonna run to get 'im to perform the ceremony, an once they get that worked out Jack hasta go confiscate Bruce's Hustler an tell 'im all about how Vinnie's gonna marry Terry an flood the county with insufferable white-bread chilluns. Bruce is P.O.'d, so he drives over to the motel where he's able to get past Beulah while she's checkin' out 'er own Hustler, an busts in on Terry's bath an tells 'er she can't marry Vinnie cause he's nuttier'n the dumpster behind Nana Mary's Confectioneries on December 26th after they shit-can all the unsold fruit cakes, an plus his balls look like a coupla Shar Pei puppies fightin' over a teat. Then Vinnie comes in an starts firin' warnin' shots into the drywall til Bruce splits like a pair of size 8 underpants on one of those women in Wal Mart who always bogart the electric cart so the 90 year old ladies with blue hair hafta walk, an once he's gone they go downstairs to celebrate. Only Beulah sticks some of 'er horse roofies in Terry's champagne an once she passes out, she an Vinnie take off for the orchard of the tortured so they can go check on how their prodouche is comin' along. So once they get out there they stick this psychedelic hypnotizer from Spencer's Gifts in front of a coupla Russell sprouts so they'll get docile enough that Beulah can stick a noose around their necks an tie 'em to the rear end of the tractor, before buryin' the speedometer deeper'n their bumper crop. Meanwhile, Bruce's out tryin' to prove that Vinnie's no good since he has no personal merit with which to win Terry over, an after findin' enough cars to sneak half the population of Mexico across the border out in the pond, he heads back to the motel to see if the fact that Vinnie's a mass murderer's a big enough character flaw to make 'er consider datin' him instead. But after Vinnie an Beulah load the ripe portion of the meat fleet up into the truck an take 'em over to the shed to start carvin' the turkeys, Gnarly's able to extricate 'imself from the mantation an promptly frees the remainin' cornhuskers who start headin' for the motel to lodge a complaint with the management. Gonna cut it off here cause the endin's a doozy.

Alrighty, well, this one's a classic in the horror/comedy genre, but it's particularly special in that even the funny parts are played with complete deadpan seriousness. When you think horror/comedy, that's not normally what comes to mind, and isn't the method used in most of the great classic horror/comedies of the era, such as; Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Dead Alive, Basket Case, or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. All the humor in those movies makes it emphatically clear that they're something to be laughed along with, where Motel Hell is far more subtle about its humor, because as far as the characters in the movie are concerned, it wasn't humor at all. And speaking of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Motel Hell is actually a lot like that title; or rather, TCM 2 is a lot like Motel Hell since it was released 6 years before TCM 2. But Motel Hell is very much an affectionate spoof that combines the plots of Tobe Hooper's first two horror titles, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Eaten Alive. You've got the same butchery of human beings who're sold as B-B-Q to hungry patrons, but the movie primarily takes place in a motel like in Eaten Alive, so they've basically squished the plots of the two and made a hilariously serious mash-up. In fact, Hooper was initially attached to direct it for Universal, but when Universal didn't go for it, Hooper bailed and it ended up being made by United Artists instead. The casting deliberately boosts the silly factor as well, with Paul Linke of CHiPs fame as the bungling insecure sheriff, Nancy Parsons (who hadn't yet played the role of Beulah Balbricker from Porky's) Wolfman Jack, and the pre-Cheers John Ratzenberger all appearing in a movie that you'd never expect them to be in, save maybe Wolfman. It's funnier now than it would've been at the time, considering Ratzenberger wasn't yet famous for portraying Cliff Clavin, and Parsons hadn't done Porky's by that point, but undoubtedly those two factors played a part in making the movie the cult hit that it is today. Plus, this way it's socially acceptable for critics to admit they enjoyed it since it's a black comedy. Black comedy is clever, and thus not damaging to one's reputation. Where admitting to enjoying certain types of horror movies tends to get you scoffed at and belittled by people who'd like to be your peers even though they've got no taste. Kinda makes you wonder how it would've turned out if they'd gone with the original plan to make it a serious, disgusting title involving bestiality, a lot more blood, and zero humor. Those things all got the kibosh because the new director didn't want to make that kind of movie and thus, turned it into a black comedy. That's not saying I didn't like what he did here, but it leaves you wondering how it would've turned out had Hooper stayed on board to direct it.

Okay then, lets try the ole pig's head on for size and see how it fits. The plot, as I mentioned earlier, is really just a smoosh of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Eaten Alive, or maybe TCM and Psycho if you'd prefer. But those're two stories that mesh particularly well to make a great movie. Maybe Psycho is more accurate, it's certainly got the black humor aspect of that one. Besides, borrowing is okay, as long as you do something entertaining and enjoyable with the ideas you make use of, without crapping on the original source material. So basically, we've got two unoriginal ideas that come together to make something fairly original. The acting is great, and features more than its share of the hammy performances between Rory Calhoun's hillbilly shenanigans, Paul Linke's Dukes of Hazzard-esque bumbling police work, and Wolfman Jack's televangelist routine. Nancy Parsons is also great as the whacked-out sister, Ida, who's seen jumpin' outta the closet to put the rear naked choke on Paul Linke, checkin' out a Hustler, and tryin' to teach the planted victims how to speak with their larynges cut, just to name a few of the crazier scenes. I'd say we've got a toss up here between the plot and the acting taking the top spot for exceptional execution on this one. Here's who matters and why: Rory Calhoun (Roller Blade Warriors, Taken by Force, Hell Comes to Frogtown, Night of the Lepus), Paul Linke (Fallen Angels, Shrunken Heads, Space Rage), Nina Axelrod (Critters 3, Time Walker), Elaine Joyce (Trick or Treat), Dick Curtis (The Day it Came to Earth, What Waits Below), E. Hampton Beagle (Demon Seed), Michel Melvin (Wizards of the Last Kingdom 2), John Ratzenberger (House II, Timestalkers, The Empire Strikes Back, Warlords of the Deep), Marc Silver (Desire, the Vampire), Gwil Richards (Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town, It's Alive), Donna Lee Miller (Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things, Beast of the Yellow Night). There's also a significant amount of normie nonsense here, which I'll run down as well. Rory Calhoun portrayed Bill Langley in the TV series The Texan, as well as Eben in How to Marry a Millionaire, Paul Linke was Grossman in the TV series CHiPs, Nancy Parsons would of course be best known for her role as Beulah Balbricker in the Porky's series, and Wolfman Jack would be best remembered for the many years he spent in radio. John Ratzenberger will always be remembered as Cliff Clavin from Cheers, though he's also done voice work for just about every Pixar movie ever made, including the Toy Story series and Wall-E. And Barbara Goodsen who's now a fairly big wheel with regard to English translations for Anime, has worked on movies, such as Akira, and a lot of series including; Naruto, Avatar the Last Airbender, Digimon, and Ghost in the Shell. Though she's also done voice work for a lot of video game series, including World of Warcraft, Everquest 2, and Might and Magic. But perhaps most disconcerting of all, she was the voice of Rita Repulsa in The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV series.

The special effects are fair, though not as good as you might think from a movie with this big a budget. Everything hanging in the butcher shop is pretty obviously a mannequin torso or a similar facsimile in the case of the pigs, though the pigs are probably the better looking of the two. They don't necessarily look real bad, but it's clear that there's no weight to them when they're being moved, which kills the realism. The pig "mask" however, is pretty decent and hilarious while still being bizarre, and has become a fairly iconic piece of horror history that's been duplicated in movies like Saw. Generally speaking, there isn't a whole lot of gore in the movie or too many special effects, and what there is is just fair. Not great, not bad, just okay. But that's really not a big deal, because the movie banks on the acting, writing, and an interesting plot to make it a success. The shooting locations are pretty good, with all the indoor scenes being sets rather than actual standing structures. I find that sets often decrease the authenticity of a scene, though these are pretty good, particularly the butcher shop. The exterior shots were all done in northern California and feature a drive-in, some lonely stretches of highway, and a pond. Oddly, the interiors are probably the more interesting of the two when compared with the outdoor stuff; but in general, both help to generate a fair amount of atmosphere. The soundtrack is another big success, and is done very much in the style of Blazing Saddles, where it's composed entirely as a serious series of tracks despite the comedy embedded in the movie. Considering what they were going for with the black comedy angle here, and so much of the movie being played straight even when what's going on is a bit silly, it was crucial that the soundtrack be the serious, atmospheric composition that it is or everything would've fallen apart. It's particularly good when you consider the composer didn't do much with the horror genre, cause it's certainly a catchy, creepy, tense soundtrack that gets the job done and is pretty enjoyable to listen to. Overall, Motel Hell is a really fun title that's somewhat underrated and under-appreciated, so be sure to give it a shot if you haven't already done so.

Rating: 74%