The 1980s saw a resurgence in the horror genre with the success of low budget films like Halloween and Friday the 13th. Hoping to cash in on the renewed interest in horror, in 1980 United Artists agreed to finance and distribute Motel Hell for writer/producers Robert and Steven-Charles Jaffe and director Kevin Connor. The film opened at #1 over Halloween weekend, and eventually grossed $6.3 million (according to Box Office Mojo) during its theatrical run.
Distributed By: Scream Factory
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Run Time: 1 Hr. 42 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD2-Disc Blu-ray Keepcase with cardboard sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: B, 1
Release Date: 08/12/2014
Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun) is known all over the county for his delicious smoked meat products. What they don’t know is that tourists are his secret ingredient. Vincent, with help from his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) set traps along the highway late at night, collecting their prey alive and planting them in their secret garden until ripe. One evening, Vincent captures a couple on a motorcycle, but saves the young woman, Terry (Nina Axelrod), putting her up in his grandmother’s old room, and invites her to stay for a prolonged period in exchange for helping out around the farm and adjacent inn, named Motel Hello (with the latter “O” often flickering out). Vincent and Ida’s younger brother, Sheriff Bruce (Paul Linke), who is oblivious to their cannibalistic tendencies, falls for Terry, who rejects him but falls for Vincent when he saves her yet again after a failed attempt on her life by Ida. When Vincent proposes marriage to Terry, the house of cards begins to fall apart, with Ida feeling rejected and Bruce finally beginning to come to his senses and finding out what his brother and sister have been up to all these years.The screenplay by producing brothers Robert and Steven-Charles Jaffe tries to walk that difficult tightrope between horror and comedy, and director Kevin Connor adds a touch of British flavor to the film. But ultimately, Motel Hell falters with no big scares nor big laughs to be had. Rory Calhoun’s performance as Vincent is the best thing about the film, playing it straight with an underlying innocence. Nancy Parsons plays Ida with much of the same creepiness and odd behavior that would bring her success in Porky’s two years later.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer (which retains the film’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio) provided to Scream! Factory is something of a mixed bag. The disc boasts well-saturated and accurate colors, especially deep reds, and detail is quite good. Contrast is an unstable element, sometimes providing deep blacks, and other times creating a murky soup. Compression artifacts are also present, if looking for them specifically.
Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo surround track is typical of an early 1980s Dolby Stereo theatrical experience. Overall, the track is rather flat with limited stereo separation and minimal bleed to the rears. Still, for the most part, dialogue is clear and understandable.
Audio Rating: 3/5
Scream! Factory has managed to create some new bonus materials for this release, as well as port over a few from the Region B release from Arrow.Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Connor: New for this release, moderator Dave Parker sits down with Kevin Connor to discuss the making of the film.It Takes All Kinds: The Making of “Motel Hell” (1080p; 24:33): Paul Jaffe, Steven-Charles Jaffe, Kevin Connor, and actor Marc Silver discuss making the movie in this new documentary.Shooting Old School: With Thomas Del Ruth (1080p; 15:45): Director of Photography Thomas Del Ruth discusses how he got into cinematography and shooting Motel Hell in this new interview.Ida, Be Thy Name: The Frightful Females of Fear (1080p; 18:09): Ported from the Region B release from Arrow, this documentary looks at the scream queens and female antagonists from the 1980s horror movies.From Glamour to Gore: Rosanne Katon Remembers “Motel Hell” (1080p; 11:28): The former Playboy Playmate discusses working on the film in this interview from the Region B Arrow Blu-ray release.Another Head on the Chopping Block: An Interview With Paul Linke (1080p; 14:52): The actor discusses how he got cast in the film in this interview from the Arrow Blu-ray.Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:40)Behind The Scenes Gallery (1080p; 2:33)Posters and Production Gallery (1080p; 17:38)DVD: A standard definition copy of the film, plus all of the same bonus materials.Reversible Insert Cover: Choose between the new Scream! Factory artwork or artwork based on the film’s original poster.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
I ran into Steven-Charles Jaffe a few years ago, and when the subject turned to horror films, he told me that he had been asking MGM to give Motel Hell a decent home video release for years. With Scream! Factory’s release, I’d say his wish has come true.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
Support HTF when you buy this title: