Motel Hell (1980) Review


Some horror movies you watch for the fear factor, some for the gore. And then there are the ones you watch because they’re just so damn fun.

Motel Hell is one of those movies. This is a wildly nutty, unapologetic romp that may make you think twice before wolfing down that sausage patty.

Farmer Vincent (Rory  Calhoun) and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) run the Motel Hello located in a quaint little rural town. People come from miles around for the hospitality, but mainly for Vincent’s delicious home-smoked meats, which are the best meats around. But those meats are made with a special ingredient, and it ain’t just love. It comes from Farmer Vincent’s secret garden out back – and it’s what’s in the garden that makes his meat so goshdarn good. Because as Vincent himself says “It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters”.


Motel Hell was made at a time where horror movies consisted mainly of teen stereotypes running from masked killers and it’s a breath of fresh air. The movie makes the bold move of not only making the antagonists the main characters, but making them likeable. Rory Calhoun steals every scene he’s in  and even when he’s cheerfully burying bodies up to their necks, he does so with a sweet cowboy smile that makes Vincent the most dangerously lovable killer you’ve ever seen.  Nancy Parsons, (perhaps best known for her portrayal as the gym teacher in Porky’s) is pitch perfect as the loopy but deadly Ida. Most actresses would be unable or unwilling to pull this character off, but Parsons seems to relish in it and the chemistry between the two leads is part of why this movie works so well.

The film moves about at a brisk pace, occasionally tossing in characters who exist only to be killed, albeit in a humorous ways. And it all culminates in a great big goofy climax involving Vincent wearing a pig’s head getting into a chainsaw duel with the local deputy (also his kid brother) while a hapless heroine is strapped to a meat slicer. And yes that is every bit as awesome as it sounds.


Motel Hell is lacking in a few things. Outside of the killer siblings, the side characters aren’t much to write home about and neither is their acting. And it lacks any true scares, although I’ve heard more than one person say that the gurgling noises the “critters” make after their vocal cords have been slit traumatized them as a child. But there’s still a good amount of gruesome fun to be had and the movie has a nice timeless quality to it.

The DVD is sadly lacking in extras which is a pity because this is one where a peek behind the scenes would have been great. But even so Motel Hell is a nice enough place to visit, just stay away from the meat.

Rating: 8 out of 10

About the Author:  Cheryl thinks Motel Hell is enough to make her a vegetarian. But then again, there’s bacon. Sweet, sweet bacon. Hit her up on Twitter at @FeralCherylZ

3 thoughts on “Motel Hell (1980) Review

  1. Very good write up. I think you’ve captured the horror and humor well in your description. Reminds me of the old drive-ins where they’d tack a midnight horror movie on as the third in a triple feature. Good for scaring your partner into your arms.

  2. This is one of my favorite horror films. My dad wouldn’t let me watch it when I was a kid because he said ‘it was just too silly’. If only he knew THAT’S the reason it’s so enjoyable.

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