Underrated Horror Movies That Define The Genre Part II
“It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters.” Long before pigs-head masks became fashionable (I’m talkin’ to you, Saw franchise), farmer Vincent planted the seed. He then picked up a chainsaw and spit out one-liners that would make Schwarzenegger blush. What can be said about this weird, surreal and original piece of grindhouse cinema, without sounding like I lost my mind??? Motel Hell is about farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun) and his plump, younger sister Ida (Nancy Parsons). Vincent and Ida—proprietors of Motel Hello (insert discernible marketing here)—capture travelers, bury them up to their necks in a human garden of death, slit their vocal chords, feed them, kill them and then turn them into award-winning barbecue.
After capturing one couple in a staged auto-accident, farmer Vincent takes a shine to the woman and things kinda go bat-shit crazy from there. This film has some interesting cameos, most notably radio DJ Wolfman Jack as evangelist preacher Reverend Billy and John Ratzenberger (aka Cliff Clavin, the postman from the TV show Cheers) as the drummer from fictional band Ivan and the Terribles.
Many compare this film to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), but other than the cannibalism and brief chainsaw use at the end, I just don’t see it. It really is its own beast, and one of the things that helps it stand out are Calhoun and Parsons’ spectacular performances. Much of this film set the groundwork for the kind-of-high-concept, tongue-in-cheek splatter films of the 1980s. Fuck, even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 borrowed the dueling chainsaw fight from this film. When one of the biggest horror franchises is copying scenes from your movie, you know you did something right. — Mark Covino