Blu-ray Review – Motel Hell (Scream Factory)

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Motel Hell is an odd film. It’s packaged as a horror-comedy hybrid, but in reality, it takes itself far more seriously than most movies within the same category. Though the film does have an oddball quality, it steers clear of satire, and never reduces itself to slapstick. Motel Hell was produced during a time where all studio horror output was expected to be dead-teen slasher flicks, and while the film has a slasher quality to it, it has a lot more going on for it than that. Another thing Motel Hell is good for, is forcing you to create a lot of the violence in your own mind, as much of the gorier death scenes happen off-screen in a clever sort of way. Much like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, you walk away from Motel Hell feeling like you just watched a gorier film than you actually did. What really sets this film apart from the pack is the fantastic casting of the two villains in the picture, with maniacally convincing performances from Rory Calhoun as Farmer Vincent, and especially Nancy Parsons as Ida. Scream Factory has put together an impressive Blu-ray release of this classic horror film, that has been a fan favorite for as long as I can remember. 

From Shoutfactory.com:

You really are what you eat with Farmer Vincent’s smoked meat in this creepy horror yarn that “packs a punch that goes way beyond mere terror” (Boxoffice). Vincent’s popular products contain a special ingredient that the psychotic farmer and his sister would literally kill to keep a secret! StarringRory Calhoun (Angel), Nancy Parsons (Porky’s), Nina Axelrod (Time Walker, Cobra) and John Ratzenberger (Cheers), and directed by Kevin Connor(From Beyond The Grave, At The Earth’s Core), this darkly funny flick “just might be your cup of meat” (L.A. Herald Examiner)!

As mentioned above, one of the main things that makes Motel Hell stand out, is the great performances from the actors that portray the two lead villains. Rory Calhoun is great as Farmer Vincent, but the real menacing baddie here is Nancy Parsons as Ida. If Vincent is the brains of the human jerky biz, then Ida is the brawn. Nancy Parsons is this weird mixture of sweet, somewhat off-putting, but very intimidating at the same time. Ida is one of the more memorable female psychopaths. While most of the gnarlier violence in Motel Hell happens off-screen, you’ll never forget seeing victims buried up to their with their throats slashed to prevent them from screaming, and the godawful gurgling sounds that they make when they try to talk. In one of the extras on the disc, it is explained that they hired a man with a tracheotomy to use his amplifier to make the gurgling sounds that you hear in the film. It’s that type of ingenuity, and the commitment to going to very dark places, even with the overall lighthearted nature of the film itself. It straddles the line between seriousness and camp, never crossing too far over the line in either direction. Not every genre fan is keen on the combination of horror and comedy, so Motel Hell is the perfect movie to serve as a bridge to enjoyment even to those generally put off by films like this.

Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of Motel Hell is an all-around impressive presentation, of a fan favorite title that collector’s in the US have been waiting a long time for. The video presentation will look mostly familiar that fans that didn’t have the patient to wait for a region A release of the film, and imported Arrow’s Blu-ray edition back when it was released. The two releases are sourced from the same HD master. You will notice some differences here and there, because each company has their own bag of tricks as far as tweaks are concerned. I have seen both releases, so I do have a frame of reference with which to compare. I have read some complaints on social media outlets, that there is a lot of compression artifacts in the Scream Factory release when compared to Arrow. Of course, the way that this was deduced was through comparing compressed screenshots of each release, downscaled to 720p. If you’ve seen both releases in action, however, you will know that they are very similar, differing in only a few minor ways that most viewers won’t even notice, but equal in quality.

During some interior night scenes, the PQ becomes a little more grainy than throughout the rest of the film, but detail is never sacrificed. It has little to do with the actual transfer of the film, and is caused mostly by the way in which the film is shot, the lighting, and other things beyond anyone’s control. Don’t be alarmed, though, because compared to the DVD release, this is quite an impressive upgrade. If the supposed compression issues are subtle enough that I can’t even spot them when comparing the Scream Factory Blu-ray to the Arrow disc, one could deduce that this is a nitpick. If one with a trained eye wanted to go out of their way to find flaws with this release, I supposed they could do so, but for legitimate fans of the film, and of Scream Factory itself, this disc will be seen as pleasing. The release comes filled with a plethora of entertaining bonus content, ranging from full-on retrospectives to entertaining interviews with some of the cast and crew involved in the production. I will list the extras in full below, but suffice it to say that fans of Motel Hell will have plenty of new behind-the-scenes content to peruse. Scream Factory’s Collectors Edition Blu-ray release of Motel Hell is now available, and highly recommended. Click here to purchase a copy for yourself.

Bonus features:

  • NEW Audio Commentary with director Kevin Connor, moderated by filmmaker Dave Parker
  • NEW It Takes All Kinds: The Making of MOTEL HELL featuring interviews with director Kevin Connor, producers/writers Robert Jaffe and Steven Charles Jaffe and actor Marc Silver
  • NEW Shooting Old School with cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth
  • Another Head on the Chopping Block: An interview with actor Paul Linke
  • From Glamour to Gore: An interview with actress Rosanne Katon
  • Ida, Be Thy Name: A look back at MOTEL HELL’s frightful female protagonist Ida Smith
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Photo Galleries

Movie:
(7.5/10)

Blu-ray:
(8/10)

About Shawn Savage

I say stuff. Shawn@liberaldead.com @theliberaldead
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