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Motel Hell

Theatrical release poster.
Directed by Kevin Connor
Produced by Robert Jaffe
Steven-Charles Jaffe
Written by Robert Jaffe
Steven-Charles Jaffe
Tim Tuchrello (uncredited)
Starring Rory Calhoun
Paul Linke
Nancy Parsons
Nina Axelrod
Wolfman Jack
Music by Lance Rubin
Cinematography Thomas Del Ruth
Editing by Bernard Gribble
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) October 18, 1980
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3,000,000 (estimated)[1]
Gross revenue $6,342,668

Motel Hell is a 1980 horror comedy film directed by Kevin Connor and starring Rory Calhoun as farmer, butcher, 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.[2]

Because of its low budget nature, the original intent was to make a serious horror film, with moments of disturbing wit and irony. The film's score was composed by Lance Rubin.



Farmer Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) and his younger sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) live on a farm/motel (The Motel Hello, but the O on the sign is constantly flickering on and off), where Vincent makes smoked meats that are proclaimed to be the most tasty and delicious in the surrounding hundred miles. Vincent's secret, as it turns out, is human flesh, as Vincent has the areas around his motel (which are relatively isolated) strewn with various booby traps to catch unfortunate victims. The victims are then placed in a 'secret garden' where they are buried up to their necks and have their vocal cords slit so they cannot scream: Vincent keeps them until he believes they are ready and then kills them, quarters them, and cures them. Ida helps in this task, and seems to enjoy it a tad too much, whereas Vincent for the most part seems rather calm and certain in his belief he's not doing anything wrong.

The movie opens with Vincent shooting out the tires of a motorcycle a couple is riding on: The male (Bo) is placed in the garden, but Vincent takes a shine to the young female (Terry) and brings her to the motel to recuperate. The next morning, Vincent's mild-mannered younger brother sheriff Bruce (Paul Linke) (unlike Ida, Bruce is unaware of his brother's murderous secret) arrives, and Vincent tells Terry that her boyfriend died in the accident and that he buried him (under some nonsense that such burials are allowed under certain circumstances): a trip to the graveyard shows that Vincent did indeed place a crude grave marker there. Terry, having nowhere else to go, decides to stay at the motel.

Most of the film consists of Vincent (with Ida's help) capturing more victims for his garden (first a health inspector for Vincent's more traditional farm who spies Vincent's hidden garden by sheer chance, goes to investigate, and finds the terrible secret before ending up part of it, then a van full of drugged-up would-be band members) while using his folksy charm to woo Terry, much to Bruce's dislike, who tries to woo her himself without much success. Vincent captures more victims (a pair of women, one of whom manages to flee in her car, but apparently faints from the stress of her terror after a brief chase, allowing Vincent to capture her, and then a pair of highly deviant swingers who show up with a false ad that the motel is a swinger's paradise), and then suggests he may teach Terry to smoke meat. Ida finds out about this fact and, jealous of Terry, attempts to drown her in the pond (by luring her out there to play on inner tubes, and then pretending to fall into the water and drag Terry under in her panic, as she claims she cannot swim), but Vincent comes along in time and saves them. This proves to be the catalyst for the mentally vulnerable Terry, who attempts to seduce Vincent (he stops her, claiming it would not be proper until they were married) and then agrees to marry him.

Bruce, unhappy that he's 'lost' Terry, drives down to the motel once he hears the news and actually bursts into the bathroom to protest Terry's choice (and during his rant to slander his brother, he claims his brother has 'syphilis of the brain', which might actually explain Vincent's calm mindset towards murder and cannibalism), but Vincent swiftly appears and chases his brother off with a shotgun. Having decided to have the wedding tomorrow, Vincent, Terry, and Ida share a glass of champagne, but Ida drugs the champagne to knock Terry out so she and Vincent can prepare some of the garden victims (presumably for the wedding feast tomorrow). Meanwhile, Bruce, still mad over losing, starts doing some detective work on a few strange things he's noticed for a while and finds circumstantial evidence that something is not quite kosher with his brother's farm.

Vincent and Ida kill three of the band members (by hypnotizing them with a special device with swirling, flashing lights to get them calm, then tying nooses around their neck, attaching the rope to a tractor, and then driving the tractor to break their necks) and pull them out of the ground to take to Vincent's meat processing plant. However, doing so seems to loosen the dirt around Bo, as he begins to try and escape (something that apparently proved impossible before). Bruce sneaks back to the motel to try and rescue Terry, but bad timing causes Ida to return to the motel for a snack and overhear Bruce trying to get Terry to leave. Ida ambushes Bruce when he leaves the room and knocks him out, and then takes Terry at gunpoint to the meat processing plant. Meanwhile, Bo does escape and frees the other victims in the garden.

Vincent, rather upset that his 'love' found out his secret the way she did, sends Ida back to the motel to fetch his brother, but the victims, having escaped (and in a nod to zombie films, have staggered around a bit groaning and hissing due to their cut vocal cords), ambush her and knock her out. Terry attempts to escape the meat processing plant, but the door is locked and Vincent sadly knocks Terry out with gas, and then ties her to a conveyor belt, apparently planning to kill her too. He is interrupted by Bo, who crashes into the meat plant via an overhead window and brawls with Vincent, but he is weak from being trapped in the garden for so long and Vincent ultimately strangles him to death.

Bruce awakens, procures one of his brother's shotguns, and goes to the meat packing room himself, but he finds his brother has armed himself with a giant chainsaw (and also placed a pig's head over his own as a gruesome mask). Vincent manages to disarm his brother, but Bruce grabs his own chainsaw and proceeds to have a violent duel with Vincent (in the process turning on the conveyor belt Terry is tied to, sending her slowly towards a meat cutting blade). Despite suffering several wounds, Bruce ultimately fakes his brother out and drives the chainsaw into his side for a mortal wound. Bruce frees Terry and then returns with her to his wounded brother, who gasps out his final words, leaving the farm and 'secret garden' to Bruce, and then lamenting his whole life was a lie and he was the biggest hypocrite of all ("My... meat... I... I... used... preservatives!") before he dies.

Bruce and Terry first go to the secret garden and find Ida buried in it as revenge... head and body first (of the victims there is no sign, they seem to have wandered off somewhere, presumably getting help), and then head past the motel, while Bruce comments on how he had no idea what was going on and was glad he'd run away when he was eleven. Terry suggests they just burn the motel, claiming it's evil, and as if on cue the sign saying MOTEL HELLO finally shorts out fully, permanently darkening the O and leaving the title and reality: MOTEL HELL.


DVD release

In 2002, MGM released Motel Hell as part of its "Midnite Movies" collection of double feature DVDs. It was released along with the 1974 feature film Deranged.


A remake of Motel Hell is in talks, potentially directed by Steven C. Miller of Automaton Transfusion fame.[3]


  1. ^ Box office and business data for Motel Hell at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Prince, Stephen (2001). Screening Violence 1. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 135. 
  3. ^ "'Motel Hell' Remake Director Discovered!"

External links

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