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.