Movie Review: Motel Hell (1980)

Pretty odd picture, am I right?
Motel Hell (1980) is one bizarre piece of filmmaking. The production quality here is eerily reminiscent of 1979's Phantasm. The opening credits are piped in neon and set to a strange, haunting score.

The plot is simple. Farmer Vincent makes the best smoked meats within a 100-mile radius. He doesn't distribute nationally because that focused sales territory allows him to keep the food quality high and the prices reasonable. Farmer Vincent believes in quality, you see? The man is a visionary--an altruistic businessman withholding his gift from the world in the interests of his artistic integrity.

Actually, he lives with his deranged sister Ida and plants the travelers that he captures in a garden, where he feeds them through funnels before slaughtering them, smoking them, and adding them to the recipes he creates to make Farmer Vincent's Smoked Meats.

After all, it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters!

Rory Calhoun is unreal. This guy...wow, the performance he gives here is worth watching this campy frightfest unto itself. That saccharine grin. Those glazed eyes. Those hands tucked just so into the overalls. All of it adds up to one unsettling viewing experience.

Throw in the crazy-as-hell marriage plot and the psycho tubing incident and you have an exercise here in the uncanny. Campy uncanny, but uncanny nonetheless.

Here is a clip of Farmer Vincent's garden:

High art this clearly ain't, but it's entirely compelling all the same. This is available on Prime video if you are a subscriber, and it's a fun, kooky, strange 100 minutes of vintage horror.

Give it a watch, friends. As ol' Grannie was fond of saying: Meat is meat, and a man's gotta eat!


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The Walking Dead: "Here's Not Here"

I was fully engrossed in last night's ninety-minute episode of The Walking Dead. The show's producers and writers have done a particularly admirable job over these last two seasons of juggling a few sub-plots within an epic non-linear storyline. These sub-plots have added depth and humanity to what is, admittedly, one of the most brutal shows in television history.

Lennie James (Morgan) and John Carroll Lynch (Eastman) had fantastic chemistry in this episode of rich re-awakening. Morgan's story seems to be ramping up in the television series--a welcome return to some of the humanistic pathos that might be lost if Glenn is, in fact, dead. The simple utterance of his children's names late in the episode--his almost grudging mumble of "Kenny and Dwayne" in the clear zone--was gut-wrenching; it really speaks to the series' innate ability to take the simplest moments and make them utterly profound.

Eastman is a fantastic character. The embedded narrative concerning the loss of his family was harrowing and heart-breaking, and the close-up on his funeral marker served as a stylish reinforcement of this episode's central epiphany: It's about people. Without people, there's nothing. 

I liked it a lot. It's my favorite episode of the season, and the best I've seen in a long while. I've seen it savaged on the Internet this morning, and I disagree that this one didn't need ninety minutes. In fact, there was no wasted time here--no narrative navel-gazing. I think Morgan's influence on the arc of this series is going to be vital, and I feel that the show's producers did the audience a great service in slowing things down, going back to "then," and showing a man's transformation in the face of that brutal environment.

I'm sad that Eastman was only in the show for a single episode, but my--what an episode it was!

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