Horror Film Review: Motel Hell (1980, dir. Kevin Connor)


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You read the title of this post correctly. This is directed by Kevin Connor who has made numerous Hallmark films I’ve reviewed on this site. In addition, Bradford May was the camera operator on this film who also went on to direct numerous Hallmark movies I’ve reviewed. And it has one more connection to Hallmark because it has John Ratzenberger in it who went on to be in a few Hallmark movies.

So with all those connections to Hallmark in this 80s horror film, does it have any similarities to those films? Actually, it does in a way. In the case of Kevin Connor, it makes sense to hire a director who has proven themselves to be able to make a memorable movie with a small budget to make your small TV Movies.

Let’s talk about the movie now.

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The film opens with Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) sitting on the porch of his Motel Hello. The ‘O’ being in need of replacing as it keeps going out. Thus changing the name of the place to Motel Hell. Smith drives out to the road and we see a motorcycle carrying a guy and a girl go past a sign.

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Smith sells smoked meat out of his motel. He sees the motorcycle hit something then go down. The guy is dead, but the girl is still alive. He loads them up and brings them back home.

Smith doesn’t live alone. He lives with his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons). Look familiar?

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If a painful game of tug of war came to mind, then you do recognize her, because that’s Balbricker from Porky’s (1981). She grabs no dicks in this movie. This is Rory Calhoun’s film. And he makes it known with his time tested and approved way of calming kids down who just ran scared after wandering through a slaughterhouse.

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We are now introduced to the three other characters who matter in this movie.

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First, the girl who survived the crash. Her name is Terry (Nina Axelrod). She wakes up to find out that her boyfriend is long gone. Smith has already buried him.

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Second, the 80s sheriff Bruce Smith (Paul Linke). He’s Vincent Smith’s kid brother.

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And inspector Bob Anderson (E. Hampton Beagle). Oh, poor poor Bob. Because after he gets this goodbye from Vincent.

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Bob makes an unfortunate discovery about Vincent’s secret garden.

Yep, Vincent’s meat comes from people. Let me try and explain it the best I can. He sets traps on the nearby road so that people crash. He goes in and gasses them. He then takes them back to his secret garden and slits their vocal cords. He then plants them in the ground leaving just their head poking out. That’s why when the bag covering their heads are pulled off they just making groaning almost zombie like noises. Then he appears to hypnotize them using colorful pinwheels and hypnotic noise before he snaps their necks with a noose attached to a tractor trailer. They are then turned into the meat that he sells. Rather gruesome, but there honestly isn’t a whole lot to it. Here’s the scene that basically sums it all up.

Luckily, one of those heads is attached to John Ratzenberger. I say luckily because it means we finally all got our wish. Cliff Clavin has no way to tell his annoying stories anymore.

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Oh, and Ratzenberger is captured after a van carrying himself and several bandmates hits a trap laid by Vincent. And you know what? More bands need to be named after Sergei Eisenstein movies.

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That’s basically the film right there. Vincent and Ida collecting bodies, feeding the heads, and justifying it all to themselves with crazy talk. Then Bruce and Terry eventually figure things out and the net closes in on them.

There is one particular capturing scene that is worth watching. Here’s the capture of the kinky couple.

The other thing that is worth mentioning is that Wolfman Jack is in this. He plays a reverend.

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According to Motel Hell, the lord works in mysterious ways. Sometimes the lord provides you with an excuse to confiscate a copy of Hustler for your own personal collection.

Horror really isn’t my thing and this film does begin to wear out it’s welcome at a certain point, but it’s Calhoun’s performance and the creepy atmosphere that makes it work. There are more clips up on YouTube if you want to see more in order to make your decision about watching this or not. I guess you have my recommendation.

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Horror on TV: Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3.16 “Doppelgangland”


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Let’s continue our look at Horror on TV with another classic episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Just as yesterday’s episode focused on a supporting character (Xander), this episode focuses on Willow!

I was going to say that Doppelgangland was one of my favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but then I realized that everyone would probably say that. This is an episode that truly shows why countless fans continue to love the show after all these years.

The Daily Horror Grindhouse: I Hate You (dir by Nick Oddo)


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“Murder is fun and doesn’t cost a thing!”

So says aging stand up comedian Norman (Marvin W. Schwartz).  Though we don’t learn much about Norman’s background, it’s obvious that he’s been pursuing his career for a while and he has yet to achieve much in the way of success.  With his dark suit, gray hair, and sarcastic delivery, he really does seem like he should be working in a cheap casino or a Catskills resort or maybe on a cruise ship.

But then you hear his act and you discover that he spends most of his time talking about how better the world would be if we just killed each other.  At one point, he even mentions that he’s working on a new act in which he’ll basically order the people in the audience to kill anyone sitting near them.  Eventually, he offends the wrong person and he’s told that he’ll no longer be allowed to perform at the local comedy club.  Norman replies by saying that the club’s owner probably would have hated Lenny Bruce as well.

And so Norman wanders around New York City.  He talks to a fellow comedian and notes that Jack the Ripper only killed five people but yet he’s had more books written about him than any president.  Everyone that Norman talks to nods along, humoring him.  It’s the same basic approach that Peter Boyle took to Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver and look how well that turned out.

Eventually, still wearing his black suit, Norman tries to play in the park.  For a few minutes, Norman is actually enjoying himself.  Of course, this is when Norman has a heart attack and nearly dies.  Norman, who dreams so much of being famous, is forced to consider his own mortality.

And, while all this is going on, Norman also finds the time to brutally murder 11 people.  That’s right.  Norman’s a serial killer.  If he can’t find fame as a stand-up comedian, he’ll find fame as a murderer.  However, as Norman discovers, even killers have to struggle to get the recognition they think they deserve.  Norman’s comedy is ignored and his crimes are only listed in the back pages…

I Hate You was released in 2004 and has been included in several box sets.  (I saw it as a part of the same Decrepit Crypt Of Nightmares box set that included Burning Dead and Dead 7.)  It’s a low-budget film that really doesn’t go anywhere but I have to admit that I actually liked it.  Marvin W. Schwartz (who also co-wrote the script) gives a good performance as Norman and the movie, which is shot in wonderful black-and-white, provides a lot of wonderful shots of New York City.

Plus, it’s barely an hour long!  So, right when you’re getting tired of it, it ends.  That’s a lesson that many movies could stand to learn from I Hate You.

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Halloween Havoc!: Bela Lugosi in THE DEVIL BAT (PRC 1940)


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Horror icon Bela Lugosi had some superb acting roles. Count Dracula. Murder Legendre. The broken-necked Ygor. And….Dr, Paul Caruthers in THE DEVIL BAT? What, you ask? Have I gone as looney as some of Bela’s mad scientists? I know, THE DEVIL BAT is pure hokum, with a lousy script and a ludicrous premise. But that’s my point: the only reason to watch this bottom-of-the-barrel nonsense is Lugosi’s performance. The actor,  despite all the ridiculous goings-on, gives it his all and makes the picture work.

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The town of Heathville is rocked by a string of murders committed by a (yes) giant bat! Intrepid reporters Johnny Layton and shutterbug One-Shot McGuire are sent by editor Joe McGinty to investigate. The prominent Heath and Morton families have been targeted. Kindly Dr. Caruthers harbors a long-time grudge against them for making them rich at his own expense. So he creates a “devil bat”, using radiation to enlarge bats…

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Netflix Halloween 2015 : “The Beast Of Xmoor”


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Okay, let’s get the confusing stuff out of the way first : writer/director Luke Hyams’ 2014 British indie horror offering The Beast Of Xmoor was originally released under the simpler title X Moor, only to have  the “X” and the “Moor” combined, for reasons unknown, into one word later, perhaps to more (semi-)accurately reflect the name of the North Devon region it takes place in — which is, in fact, called Exmoor with an “E,” and really is rumored to be the favored stomping grounds of a puma-like creature that plenty of people have seen, but no one’s actually been able to photograph.

Think of it as the UK’s answer to Bigfoot, only on four legs, and you’re getting a reasonably clear idea of the “real-life” phenomenon, as well as at least some inkling as to why this particular legend could make for good horror movie material…

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The Things You Find On Netflix: The Mafia Kills Only In Summer (dir by Pierfrancesco Diliberto)


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The Mafia Kills Only In Summer, a sweet and melancholy comedy from Italy,  was originally released in 2013 but it didn’t make it over to the U.S. until March of this year.

Watching the film, as an American, I was happy to get the chance to see it but, at the same time, I could understand why it took it a while to get over here.  The Mafia Kills Only In Summer is about Italian (more specifically Sicilian) history and a lot of the humor comes at the expense of an Italian politician named Giulio Andreotti, an infamous figure in Italy but someone who is almost totally unknown here in the States.  (In the picture above, the film’s protagonist is pretending to be Andreotti for a costume party.  If you want to learn more about Andreotti, I suggest tracking down another Italian film, Il Divo.)  That said, though the film may specifically be about the history of the Mafia in Palermo, it also tells a universal story of love and courage.  And though the film’s humor is often very dark, there’s a very real sweetness at the center of it.  This is a film that can be appreciated by everyone.

The film tells the story of Arturo, who is played by Alex Bisconti as a bambino and by director Pierfrancesco Diliberto as an adulto.  The film starts with his conception, which is portrayed via CGI.  (As Arturo explains it, all but one of his father’s sperm was scared off by the sound of a nearby mafia murder.  Only one sperm was brave enough to stay to fertilize the egg and that sperm was him.  As such, Arturo owes his very existence to the Mafia.)  Growing up in Palermo, Arturo is constantly surrounded by mafia violence and a good deal of the film’s humor comes from the absurd lengths that all the adults go to deny both the reality of the violence around them and the obvious corruption of the local government.

Every violent mafia murder is dismissed, by the locals, as being the result of a dispute over a woman.  (“Women kill more men than heart attacks,” one local resident says while discussing the assassination of a journalist.)  Soon, Arturo is terrified of falling in love but fall in love he does.  He spends most of his boyhood sweetly but unsuccessfully pursuing Flora (Ginerva Antona as a bambina, Christiana Capotondi as an adulta).  His pursuit is observed and commented upon by a kindly judge who is eventually blown up a car bomb.  Fearful of Palermo’s violence, Flora’s father sends her to Switzerland.  Years later, as an adult, she returns to Palermo and works for a political ally of Andreotti’s, Salvatore Lima.  When she happens to run into the now adult Arturo, she gets him a job with the campaign.  Arturo has a second chance to win Flora’s love but, as always, his attempts are complicated by the violent realities of Palermo.

The Mafia Kills Only In Summer is a sweetly romantic and unexpectedly poignant film.  It’s currently available on Netflix and I highly recommend it.

Horror Film Review: Rosemary’s Baby (dir by Roman Polanski)


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“This is no dream!  This is really happening!”

— Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Yes, Rosemary, it is.

The classic 1968 horror movie Rosemary’s Baby is probably best remembered for a lengthy and wonderfully surreal “dream” sequence in which naive newlywed Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) is raped by the Devil while a bunch of naked old people stand around her and chant.  At one point, she sees her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), saying that she’s awake and that she knows what’s going on.  Their neighbor, Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon), tells him that Rosemary can’t hear anything and that it’s like she’s dead and then snaps at him, “Now, sing!”  It’s a great sequence, one of the greatest of Roman Polanski’s career, a perfect blending of horror and dark comedy.

For me, the most interesting part of that dream sequence comes at the start.  Rosemary envisions herself naked on a boat and, as she tries to cover herself, who is sitting next to her?  None other than John F. Kennedy!  Suddenly, Rosemary is wearing a bikini and she’s relaxing out on the deck with a glamorous group of people who I assume were meant to be Kennedy relatives.  As the boat leaves the dock, Rosemary sees that her friend and protector, Hutch (Maurice Evans), is standing on the dock.

“Isn’t Hutch coming with us?” Rosemary asks.

“Catholics only,” John F. Kennedy hisses in that famous accent, “I’m afraid we are bound by these prejudices.”

“I understand,” a dazed Rosemary replies.

And it’s a wonderful little moment, though I have to wonder if I’d react as strong if my own background wasn’t Irish Catholic.  But still, there’s something so wonderfully subversive about a bunch of elderly Satanists pretending to be the Kennedys.

And really, Rosemary’s Baby is a wonderfully subversive film.  I imagine it was even more subversive when it was first released back in 1968.  It’s been ripped off and imitated so many times that it has undoubtedly lost some of its impact.  (That’s one reason why I wish I had a time machine, so I could go back in the past and see it was truly like to see a classic film for the first time.)  But still, 47 years after it was initially released, Rosemary’s Baby is still a surprisingly effective horror film.

The film opens with newlyweds Rosemary and Guy moving into the Bramford, an exclusive New York apartment building.  Guy is an actor who, despite having appeared in two off-Broadway shows (one of which was entitled Nobody Likes An Albatross and really, that is so true) and a few motorcycle commercials, is still waiting for his big break.  There are hints that, before she married Guy, Rosemary had a very active and interesting life (when we briefly meet her old friends, they all seem to be a lot more exciting than boring old Guy) but, when we meet her, Rosemary appears to have happily settled into a life of domesticity.

Life at the Bramford is strange.  For one thing, Guy and Rosemary appear to be the only young people living in the entire building.  (There is a young woman named Terry but she ends up jumping out of a window.)  The Woodhouses befriend elderly Minnie Castevet and her husband, Roman (Sidney Blackmer.)  Roman claims to have traveled all over the world and embarrasses the Catholic Rosemary by criticizing the Pope.  Minnie, meanwhile, is the noisiest person in the world.  Guy makes fun of both of them and, yet, he still decides to spend his free time with Roman.

One day, Guy gets a role that he had previously lost.  Why?  Because another actor is struck by a sudden case of blindness.  Shortly afterward, Rosemary has her “dream.”  She wakes up and discovers that her body is covered with red scratches.  Guy claims that he had sex with her while she was asleep and promises to cut his fingernails.

Soon, Rosemary is pregnant but the Castevets insist that she use their doctor, the firm and sinister Dr. Saperstein (Ralph Bellamy, who just 8 year earlier had played FDR in Sunrise at Campobello).  Rosemary knows that something is wrong with the baby but she can’t get anyone to listen to her.  It all leads to one of the best and most iconic endings in the history of horror cinema.

Rosemary’s Baby is a classic of fear and paranoia and it holds up surprisingly well.  See it this October, whether you’re Catholic or not.

(However, do not see the needless 2014 remake.  Seriously, what the Hell was up with that?)

(By the way, is anyone else amazed that I made it through this entire review without making a single joke about either Ronan Farrow or Mia’s lame Sharknado live tweet?  I am shocked.)