Movie Review: Motel Hell (1980)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1980 horror film starring Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons.

Synopsis: Farmer Vincent Smith runs a small motel with his sister, Ida, and is famous for his smoked meats. He takes in a motorcycle accident survivor, Terry, and she gradually begins to fall in love with his honest manner and charms. However, Vincent has a dark secret even his brother, the local sheriff, doesn't know about.

Who's In It?


I came across this movie on YouTube TV a couple weeks ago and decided to add it to my library. My wife and I finally had a chance to watch the film last night and it was pretty much what I was expecting it to be, a low-budget, B-rated film.

I think the main underlying problem with this particular movie is it is very predictable. We were only a couple minutes into the movie before we guessed what was actually in Vincent's smoked meat and, after that, there really weren't any surprises.

It also didn't help that the supporting characters were kind of dumb. Terry (Axelrod), for instance, didn't even seem to question Vincent's story about her boyfriend (Everett Creach) being killed on the motorcycle, despite not having a chance to see the body because Vincent decided to "bury" it without even bothering to report the accident. Maybe I've seen too many horror films, but that would be a very large red flag for me and I certainly wouldn't be agreeing to stay at the motel with him. Their lack of suspicion just made the movie that less believable.

If it were me making the movie, I definitely would have made some significant changes. For one, I would have told the story from Terry's 1st-person perspective and reveal things a little more gradually rather than have all the movie's secrets revealed in the first 15-20 minutes. I also think it would have helped to have Vincent and his sister be a little less creepy so they weren't so obvious as the bad guys.

The movie was also in desperate need of some sort of surprise twist, such as maybe Vincent not actually knowing what was in the meat coming from his smokehouse and maybe have his brother (Linke) turn out to be the bad guy. That would have salvaged what was otherwise a somewhat dull film.

Final Opinion

I usually like movies like this but this particular one just didn't do it for me. It wasn't a terrible premise, the execution just left a lot to be desired and the predictability made it much more boring than a film in this genre should be.

My Grade: D

Updated: 12/29/2020, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/22/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here does not have Motel Hell listed in its DVD collection. This film is news for me, since I didn't know that Rory Calhoun played bad guys!

How would this do as a remake these days?

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