Saturday, October 24, 2009

Trick Or Trailers: Motel Hell (1980)

Before the horror boom of the late '70s and early '80s, a movie about motel owners who kill their guests and use the bodies as the 'secret ingredient' in their popular brand of smoked meat would have been the bottom of a drive-in double bill instead of a major studio release. But in 1980, MGM backed Motel Hell and gave it a big push, hoping for a horror hit (it didn't happen and the film had to settle for finding a cult following on cable and home video). While in later years I came to know that Motel Hell was a horror-comedy, when I first encountered the trailers and TV ads for it as a kid, I sure wasn't laughing.

Maybe it's that the voiceover talents in early '80s horror trailers always made everything sound so pants-shittingly scary. Or maybe there's just so much weirdness going on in this trailer that the idea that it was supposed to be funny never crossed my mind. After all, you've got the pair of creepy hick-types (Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons), you've got someone in a blood-smeared pig mask wielding a chainsaw, and there's thrashing, hooded heads poking out of the ground in a garden. Oh, and there's also a slow-motion scream at the end - and for some reason that kind of thing just unnerved me as a kid. Eventually I had a good laugh with Motel Hell but when I watch this trailer, I still think of pure terror.

8 comments:

Planet of Terror said...

And don't forget Norm from Cheers as a drummer in a punk rock band. Love this movie.

Jeff Allard said...

Me too - although I think that's Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger), not Norm. Anyhow, it's a cool cameo. And I think the name of the band his character is in is Ivan and the Terribles. Classic!

Planet of Terror said...

Oops, my bad. Never a fan of that show but a cool cameo nonetheless :)

knobgobbler said...

I remember seeing the trailer for this wayback when it came out... and laughing at the silliness of the flickering Motel Hell(o) sign.
It seemed like it was gonna be cheeseriffic so I didn't bother watching it until recently.

senski said...

The first issue of Fangoria I ever bought was #9, which has this on the cover. And yep, I saved that baby - I think it's even rarer than the debut issue.

You're right, Jeff. I thought this was hard-core horror when I saw the ads, too...

Jeff Allard said...

Knob, I can't believe you took so long to see Motel Hell - hope you ended up liking it!

Senski, that issue of Fango haunted me for years. I saw it on sale at my local Stop & Shop while out grocery shopping with my mom and of course she refused to buy it for me. Years later I finally got myself a copy but at the time it was crushing not to take that mag home!

MrJeffery said...

Loved this movie. So strange.

Wings said...

Strange and scary when I was a kid. Now, I can see the humor in it, even if it is still a bit unsetteling.