Travelers who find lodging at the remote Motel Hello are treated to the delicious beef jerky of Farmer Vincent (an aging Rory Calhoun), proprietor of both the inn and a popular line of smoked meat products. These transients only take their leave as a supplemental ingredient of the latter concern's victuals following subjection to the husbandman's sophisticated processing methods! As his distant location is seldom advantageous in lure of vacationing victims, the enterprising old rustic's ingenuity gives rise to numerous booby traps set to ensnare potentially delicious motorists.
Motel Hell's comedy is chiefly droll, occasionally hilarious; as a horror picture, it's never terrifying, though frequently disquieting...some exiguity of suspense hardly mitigates its palpable dread. Even so, the movie's cleverer elements surmount neither its myriad flaws nor dragging pace. So much hayseed's humor would seem more apposite to a Dukes of Hazzard episode, and Lance Rubin's lightweight score might well have been recycled from an installment of Amazing Stories. An ill-conceived romantic sub-plot further slows the story's rate to a wearisome shamble. However, its gory, farcical, maniacal conclusion is very nearly worth a long wait theretofore. This was co-written and produced by the brothers Jaffe - Steven-Charles and Robert, sons of producer Herb - so one can only wonder which was the more inventive and who the duller of the two; as Robert adroitly adapted Dean Koontz's Demon Seed to the cunning screenplay of Donald Cammell's film version, I'd lay wager that he's to be credited with most of Motel Hell's imaginative atrocities.
Calhoun's standout performance alternately exudes charismatic geniality and furious derangement; he was aptly cast in a role exploiting his capacities for both charm and malice. Porcine Nancy Parsons seethes unnervingly as his malicious, manic sister, Wolfman Jack plays a lascivious televangelist with tongue firmly planted in cheek, and Gwil Richards and Toni Gillman vigorously gnaw their every scene as a perverted married couple. Unfortunately, the cast's remainder are best likened to a cord of winter lumber - especially charmless Nina Axelrod as the requisite distressed damsel.
Appropriately, Tobe Hooper was to helm Motel Hell and would surely have produced a more exciting, amusing feature had Universal Studios not abandoned the project and reassigned him to direct The Funhouse. A shame, that: it could have been a fun interstitial undertaking betwixt his two Texas Chainsaw Massacre flicks.