“It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters” cackle Vincent and Ida Smith, the brother-and-sister team behind the finest smoked meats in the county.
Set in a fictitious town in the Deep South, people come from far and wide to sample Vincent’s distinctively flavoured produce, but one might well ask why so few of them decide to stay at the near-by motel the family also runs.
Affectionately named “Motel Hello” (although the ‘o’ in the neon sign frequently goes on the blink), passers-by do occasionally check-in… but they NEVER check-out! Something to do with Farmer Vincent’s secret ingredient perhaps, the thing that makes his fritters taste so darn good?
Well respected throughout the horror community as a satire to the likes of Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Motel Hell certainly does play up the dark humour a bit and goes for the funny bone instead of the jugular. For a first time viewing experience for me, it outstay it’s welcome a bit and the 1 hour 40 minute runtime was a bit of extra fat that has to be trimmed. Not saying that it’s a bad film because I did find myself laughing at some of the exploits of Vincent and Ida’s butchery. It does have a real good 80’s horror vibe to it though and the main stars (The late Rory Calhoun & Nancy Parsons) pretty much made the characters of Vincent and Ida their very own with some exceptional tongue in cheek performances.
Motel Hell is presented on Blu-ray in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a MPEG4-AVC 1080/24p codec. Originally shot on 35mm, Arrow have done a good job bringing this respected 80’s horror to Blu-ray. There are minimal specks and signs of print damage observed in the transfer but they are minimal and shouldn’t distract from your viewing pleasure (it adds to the experience for me personally), the print also exhibits some fine natural grain throughout and black / shadow detail is spot on and whilst it’s not the most vibrant films you’ll see, the colours are reproduced nicely. Some scenes do tend to look a bit hazy though due to the filming process especially during the finale in the smoke rooms which looked awfully murky. Whilst fans of the film should be delighted with the video quality, it’s just falls under the grade of the more recently released Arrow titles.
Motel Hell slices and dices it way onto Blu-ray with a LPCM 2.0 Stereo track that is derived from the original stereo sound mix. The audio quality on the disc was quite impressive. The audio was loud and clear with no audible hiss or cackle heard during my viewing of Motel Hell. The southern inspired folk music that is peppered throughout the film came across as discrete and clear and the rather disturbing sound effects (you’ll understand what they are when you watch the film) certainly could be heard with clarity.. There were no LFE or low ends observed though as expected and the audio was nicely balanced between the front speakers. the only fault with the soundtrack was that the ADR did come across as a bit muffled at times but this is due to the print and not the Blu-ray. The disc also carries English SDH subtitles for the hearing impaired.
Audio commentary – Director Kevin Connor gives us an insight from the production of Motel Hell. Moderated by Calum Waddell.
Another Head on the Chopping Block (15 minutes) – A sit down Interview with star Paul Linke. Presented in high definition
From Glamour to Gore (11 minutes) – Interview with co-star, and former Playboy Playmate, Rosanne Katon who recollects her time on the set of Motel Hell. Presented in high definition
Ida, Be Thy Name (18 minutes) – A look back at Motel Hell’s frightful female protagonist Ida Smith and the secrets of creating a convincing slasher siren, with Scream Queens Elissa Dowling and Chantelle Albers, genre commentator Staci Layne Wilson and critic Shelagh Rowan-Legg. Presented in high definition.
Back to the Backwoods (10 minutes) – Director Dave Parker (The Hills Run Red) speaks about the importance of Motel Hell. Presented in high definition
Original Trailer (2 minutes) – The film’s original theatrical trailer rounds the disc off. Presented in standard definition.
Arrow’s release of Motel Hell was the first time I’ve watch this film and like I explained in the review above, I can understand why it’s considered a cult classic due to the exceptional performances of Vincent and Ida. The dark humour plays off well and it does make you laugh. But I just found it a bit long. It’s worth a watch though. Arrow’s Blu-ray release of it certainly keep the fans happy though. Bon appétit.