Mountaintop Motel Massacre
|Mountaintop Motel Massacre|
Original poster, as Mountaintop Motel
|Directed by||Jim McCullough Sr.|
|Produced by||Jim McCullough Sr.|
|Written by||Jim McCullough Sr.|
|Music by||Ron Di Iulio|
|Cinematography||Joseph M. Wilcots|
|Edited by||Mindy Daucus|
|Distributed by||New World Pictures|
Mountaintop Motel Massacre (originally released under the titles Mountaintop Motel and Horrors at Mountaintop Motel)[a] is a 1983 American independent horror film written and directed by Jim McCullough Sr. and starring Anna Chappell, Bill Thurman, and Amy Hill. The plot concerns a psychotic elderly woman who, after being freed from incarceration, returns to the motel she ran and begins murdering the guests.
Filmed in 1983, Mountaintop Motel Massacre was not given a wide theatrical release until 1986 when it was bought for distribution by Roger Corman's film company, New World Pictures. Although the film received negative critical reception upon its theatrical release, it has, in later years, been noted for its offbeat atmosphere, and has been referred to as an "early 1980s drive-in gem."
In rural Louisiana in 1981, Evelyn, who has recently been released from a psychiatric institution, finds her daughter Lorie practicing witchcraft in their basement. This causes her to have a mental breakdown, and she stabs Lorie to death. She manages to convince the authorities that she had nothing to do with her daughter's death, though suspicion looms over her. Adjacent to her home is the Mountaintop Motel, a group of outdoor cabins that Evelyn rented out as motel rooms prior to her institutionalization.
One morning, Reverend Bill McWiley arrives at the property and rents one of the rooms. Shortly after, a man named Robin Crewshaw arrives and also takes a room; the two men converse about the rundown state of the cabins and share a drink. Meanwhile, newlyweds Vernon and Mary are passing through on a road trip, and rent a cabin. At nightfall on the nearby highway, cousins Prissy and Tanya have their car breakdown en route to Nashville, and are picked up by Al, a lascivious man who pretends to be a record producer in hopes of bedding both of the women. They also arrive at the motel, finding driving conditions unsafe due to a torrential rainstorm.
While Vernon and Mary have sex, Vernon is bitten by a snake that Evelyn planted in the room. Mary attempts to locate a phone in the front office, but Evelyn tells her it is out of order. Al, who is at the desk paying for his room, offers to use his car phone to call the police for the couple, hoping to get an ambulance. Meanwhile, the various guests have trouble sleeping in their rooms: Reverend McWiley, passed out from drinking, is awoken by rats crawling on his bed, and Crewshaw awakens to cockroaches crawling on his body. Back in her room, Mary nurses Vernon, who grows progressively ill.
Meanwhile, Al attempts to initiate sex with Tanya and Prissy, but the girls lock themselves in the bathroom and argue over his claims of being a record producer. Tanya tells Prissy she is willing to sleep with him if it will result in a record deal, and she begins to have sex with Vernon while Prissy remains in the bathroom. Evelyn enters the bathroom through a trapdoor in the floor connected to a network of underground tunnels and slashes Prissy's throat with a sickle. Startled by the noise, Tanya opens the bathroom door, and finds the room covered in blood, but Prissy gone. Al notifies Mary, Reverend McWiley, and Crewshaw of Prissy's disappearance. Crewshaw inadvertently uncovers the trapdoor in the bathroom; with Al, they attempt to locate Evelyn, but find her absent from the main office. Meanwhile, Evelyn breaches Mary and Vernon's room; with the sickle, she impales Mary through the face, and then slashes Vernon's throat as he lies helplessly in the bed. Al and Crewshaw hear the commotion outside and find the bodies in the room while Evelyn retreats into the tunnels via a trapdoor.
Al and Crewshaw descend into the tunnels below, while Tanya locks herself inside the car. Crewshaw is attacked by Evelyn, who dismembers his hand before slashing his throat. Meanwhile, a sheriff finally arrives at the motel from Al's earlier call, and Tanya informs him of the murders. The sheriff descends into the tunnels, and discovers the Reverend's body. He is confronted by Evelyn, who attacks him in a manic state; she attempts to wrest the sickle from a wooden post where it is hanging, but in effect dislodges a beam holding the ceiling; it collapses, and the sickle hurls at Evelyn's throat, killing her.
At dawn, Al and Tanya leave with the sheriff in his car. As they drive out of the property, an apparition of Evelyn's daughter Lorie observes them from the woods. As they pull onto the main road, the vacancy sign lights up.
- Anna Chappell as Evelyn
- Bill Thurman as Reverend Bill McWiley
- Will Mitchell as Al
- Virginia Loridans as Tanya
- Major Brock as Crewshaw
- James Bradford as Sheriff
- Amy Hill as Prissy
- Marian Jones as Mary
- Gregg Brazzel as Vernon
- Jill King as Lorie
The film initially received a regional theatrical release, opening in Opelousas, Louisiana on July 15, 1983 under the title Mountaintop Motel. It was released again in Jackson, Mississippi under the title Horrors at Mountaintop Motel on December 14, 1984.
It was given a wide release beginning on March 14, 1986 when it was picked up for distribution by New World Pictures, and retitled Mountaintop Motel Massacre. Under New World's distribution, it would later show at theaters in New York City in May and June 1986.
Nina Darnton of The New York Times gave the film a negative review, calling it a "slice-and-dice film for people who like to see movies where actors pretend to carve up, mutilate, disfigure, terrify and kill one another, but it will even disappoint them. The story is too silly, the murders too predictable and unimaginative, the blood too phony and the acting too much on the level of a bad high school play to send so much as a shiver down anyone's spine." TV Guide's review of the film was largely negative, comparing the gore effects to those of Herschell Gordon Lewis, and writing: "The filmmakers do have some sense of visual style, but a slasher film is a slasher film no matter how good it looks."
The New York Daily News wrote of the film: "Evelyn and the title site's assortment of snakes, rats and roaches keep the doomed cast of mostly amateur thesps awake, but this [is a] soporific one-set wonder ... The chief "vacancy" here, we're afraid, resides between the McCulloughs' ears." Terry Lawson of the Dayton Daily News referred to it as a "by-the-numbers slasher film ... that borders on parody."
In his book Creature Features: The Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Movie Guide, film critic John Stanley awarded the film one out of four stars, suggesting the film is derivative of Psycho. Film scholar Brian Albright referred to the film as a "surprisingly fun and creepy backwoods flick," adding: "While it was marketed as a slasher film, Mountaintop Motel Massacre is actually a pseudo-supernatural thriller with some good scares and gore effects."
The film was released on VHS in August 1986. Anchor Bay Entertainment released it on DVD in May 2001. The DVD eventually went out of print, and the film was largely unavailable until being re-issued by Image Entertainment's "Midnight Madness" series in September 2011. The film was released on Blu-ray in the United Kingdom by 88 Films on February 1, 2017. On May 24, 2019, independent label Vinegar Syndrome released a North America Blu-ray, made available via their website, and featuring a new 2K scan of the original vault materials.
- Original local theater advertisements from the Vista Village Cinema 4 in Opelousas, Louisiana, and the Meadowbrook 6 in Jackson, Mississippi, show the film screened in 1983 and 1984, respectively, under different titles. The film was released under New World Pictures in 1986 under the Mountaintop Motel Massacre title.
- The film's credits thank the Shreveport, Louisiana fire department as well as Caddo Parish.
- Stine 2003, p. 193.
- "Movie Ads of the Week: MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL (1983) a.k.a. HORRORS AT MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL (1984) and MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE (1986)". Temple of Schlock. December 11, 2016. Archived from the original on January 1, 2017. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
- Darnton, Nina (May 17, 1986). "SCREEN: 'MOTEL MASSACRE'". The New York Times. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
- Westfahl, Gary. "Roger Corman (1926-) American director and producer". Gary Westfahl's Bio-Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
- "Mountaintop Motel Massacre". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
- "Local woman cast in movie". Victoria Advocate. Victoria, Texas. October 17, 1984 – via Newspapers.com.
- Mountaintop Motel Massacre [DVD]. Anchor Bay Entertainment. 2001.
- Mannikka, Eleanor. "Mountaintop Motel Massacre". Allmovie. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
- Stine 2003, pp. 193–94.
- "Movies". New York Magazine. June 2, 1986. p. 80.
- "Mountaintop Motel Massacre". TV Guide. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
- "Mountaintop Motel Massacre". New York Daily News. May 28, 1986. p. 41 – via Newspapers.com.
- Lawson, Terry. "In 'Mountaintop Motel Massacre,' it's all downhill after the title". Dayton Daily News. Dayton, Ohio – via Newspapers.com.
- Stanley 2000, p. 350.
- Albright 2012, pp. 215–16.
- "Bed'n Breakfast and Burial". Billboard: N-19. August 16, 1986 – via Google Books.
- "Mountaintop Motel Massacre DVD". Amazon. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
- "Mountaintop Motel Massacre: Midnight Madness DVD". Amazon. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
- "Mountaintop Motel Massacre Blu-ray (United Kingdom)". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
- Squires, Jon (May 24, 2019). "Vinegar Syndrome's Memorial Day Sale Includes Surprise Release 'Nightbeast' and More". Bloody Disgusting. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019.
- Albright, Brian (2012). Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-47227-7.
- Stanley, John (2000). Creature Features: The Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Movie Guide. Berkley Boulevard Books. ISBN 978-0-425-17517-0.
- Stine, Scott Aaron (2003). The Gorehound’s Guide to Splatter Films of the 1980s. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-476-61132-7.