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Theatrical release poster.
|Directed by||Kevin Connor|
|Produced by||Robert Jaffe
|Written by||Robert Jaffe
Tim Tuchrello (uncredited)
|Music by||Lance Rubin|
|Cinematography||Thomas Del Ruth|
|Edited by||Bernard Gribble|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
Motel Hell is an American 1980 horror comedy film directed by Kevin Connor and starring Rory Calhoun as farmer, butcher, motel manager, and meat entrepreneur Vincent Smith. It is often seen as a satire of modern horror films such as Psycho and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Because of its low budget nature, the original intent was to make a serious horror film, with moments of disturbing wit and irony.
Farmer Vincent Smith and his younger sister Ida live on a farm with a motel attached. It's called “Motel Hello,” but the neon ‘O’ flickers, causing the motel name to appear like Motel Hell. Vincent smokes meats which are said to be the most delicious in the area. The secret is human flesh, and Vincent sets traps on the roads near his motel to catch victims. The victims are restrained, then placed in a 'secret garden,’ buried up to their necks, and have their vocal cords cut to prevent them from screaming. They are kept in the ground and fed until they are ready for harvest. Ida helps Vincent, who feels he does no wrong and sees the victims as animals.
Vincent shoots out the front tire of a couple's motorcycle. The male, Bo, is placed in the garden, but Vincent brings the female, Terry, to the motel. The next morning, Ida's naïve brother, Sheriff Bruce, arrives. Vincent tells Terry her boyfriend died in the accident and was buried: a trip to the graveyard shows his crude grave marker. Terry, having nowhere else to go, decides to stay at the motel. Vincent and Ida subsequently capture more victims for the garden. Terry gradually becomes attracted to Vincent's honest manner and folksy charm, much to Bruce's dismay, who tries to woo her himself without much success.
Vincent captures more victims by placing wooden cut outs of cows in the middle of the highway to cause his victims to stop, allowing him to capture them and also luring in a pair of swingers who have read a fake ad and believe the hotel to be a swing joint. The next day, he suggests he teach Terry to smoke meat. Ida becomes jealous and attempts to drown Terry, but Vincent arrives to save her. This causes Terry to fall completely in love with him, and she tries to seduce Vincent. Vincent puts off her advances, saying that they should be married first, and agrees to marry her the next day.
Bruce drives down to the motel to protest Terry's choice. He tells Terry that Vincent has 'syphilis of the brain’. Vincent shows up and chases his brother with a shotgun. To prepare for the wedding, Vincent, Terry, and Ida drink champagne, but Ida drugs it so Terry passes out. Ida and Vincent then prepare some victims for the wedding. Meanwhile, Bruce does detective work and becomes suspicious of his brother.
Vincent and Ida kill three victims and take them to Vincent's meat processing butchery and smoking-facility. Doing so loosens the dirt around Bo, and he begins to escape. Bruce sneaks back to the motel to rescue Terry, but Ida returns and ambushes Bruce when he leaves the room. She knocks him out, and then takes Terry at gunpoint to the meat processing plant, where Vincent tells her his secret. Terry is horrified by the prospect of smoking human flesh. Meanwhile, Bo escapes and frees the other victims from the garden. Vincent sends Ida back to the motel to fetch his brother, but the victims attack her and knock her out. Terry tries to escape, but Vincent gasses her, and then ties her to a conveyor belt. He is interrupted by Bo, who crashes through a window, but Vincent strangles the weakened man.
Bruce awakens, finds one of his brother's shotguns, and goes to the plant, but finds that his brother has armed himself with a giant chainsaw and placed a pig's head over his own as a gruesome mask. Vincent disarms his brother, but Bruce grabs his own chainsaw and duels Vincent. During the fight, the belt Terry is tied to activates, sending her slowly towards a cutting blade. Despite suffering several wounds, Bruce drives the chainsaw deep into Vincent's side. Bruce frees Terry and then returns with her to his brother, who gasps his final words, leaving the farm and 'secret garden' to Bruce, and then lamenting that he was a hypocrite because he used preservatives.
Bruce and Terry go to the ‘secret garden’ and find it empty, except for Ida, who is buried head first. They head past the motel, while Bruce comments how he was glad he left home when he was eleven. Terry suggests burning the motel, claiming it is evil. The sign saying “Motel Hello” finally fully shorts out, permanently darkening the ‘O’.
- Rory Calhoun as Vincent Smith
- Paul Linke as Sheriff Bruce Smith
- Nancy Parsons as Ida Smith
- Nina Axelrod as Terry
- Wolfman Jack as Reverend Billy
- Elaine Joyce as Edith Olson
- Dick Curtis as Guy Robaire / 1st TV Preacher
- Monique St. Pierre as Debbie
- Rosanne Katon as Suzi
- E. Hampton Beagle as Bob Anderson
- Everett Creach as Bo Tulinksi
- Michael Melvin as Ivan
- John Ratzenberger as Drummer
- Marc Silver as Guitarist
- Victoria Hartman as Female Terrible
- Gwil Richards as Mr. Owen
- Toni Gillman as Mrs. Richards
The movie was mostly filmed at the famous Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, California with the white brick stable building as the backdrop to the motel and farm. The building and Sable Ranch locations were also used in the filming of hundreds of both Hollywood and independent movies and TV shows since the early 1920s. Interiors of the motel, farm, and smokehouse were filmed at the Laird International Studios in Culver City, California.
- Box office and business data for Motel Hell at the Internet Movie Database
- Prince, Stephen (2001). Screening Violence 1. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 135.