Motel Hell/Deranged review by The Grim Ringler

Motel Hell/Deranged

Ahh, the good old days, when a man was a fella, a woman was a gal, and you could actually make down and dirty horror films and not worry about making a hundred million dollars to justify the thing. Not that there was an overabundance of terribly great movies back in the day, no, there was a lot of tripe, but man, it was ourtripe! Well, no more. The low budget horror movies are relegated to hacks and sent shuffling off, heads down, to die on video. Sure, there are still some minor gems today, as there always will be, but there are fewer to be found. Whatever happened to making horror movies because just to make a fun, scary movie? Whatever happened to pushing boundaries? Where are all the mavericks and risk-takers, well, not in this country, I can tell you that. You have to go overseas to find anyone that really respects the genre anymore. There are still some greats here in the U.S., but most are not really doing the work they once did, and those that do are not getting the budgets they once did. It’s a shame too. People underestimate the horror genre, and sadly always have, as a way to convey morality tales, and as a wonderful way to face the demons within us and around us. I think video saved horror as much as it damned it. It saved it in that people finally could see old classics, and rare and hard to find import horror movies that were rarely ever released here. But it also damned the genre because there has been a glut of awful movies and it ended the days of double-bills and showmanship. No one presents a horror film, let alone any movie, these days, they project them. It’s become passive. We are viewers, not participants. Patrons, not players. Once upon a time you could go see a movie and good movie or bad, you had a hell of a time, because they made it a show, they made it something special. Hell, there were so many weird horror movies out back in the fifties that they had to make promotions and weird dramas of the showings to get kids in to see them. And horror trailers were works of art in and of themselves. Hell, they were better than the movies half the time. What happened? Well, we lost the fight. That’s what. We got in line with all the people that go to see Michael Bay movies and let them take our movies away from us. And the hell of it is that I am as guilty or more guilty than anyone. But sometimes we are fools and we have to trust in the people that make the movies to actually give a rat’s ass and maybe get good people to make good movies and make them fun to go to. Ahh, but I digress…I think I was supposed to review something. Oh!

Harkening back to the days, though they were waning, of the grindhouse horror films are two gems from the vaults of MGM, Motel HellandDeranged, both movies that are over-due the respect that they deserve. Are the classic, wonderful, deep and thoughtful films that need to be seen and studied? No, not at all. But they are very good horror films, and in the case of Deranged, are a good look into the minds of madmen.

Motel Hell is a simple tale really, sort of a funny take on Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but don’t dismiss it yet, it’s a neat little movie all its own. It’s the story of one Farmer Vincent and what we are lead to believe is his sister, and the motel they run together, the Motel Hello. Now while Vincent runs the motel, it isn’t his main source of income or notoriety, nope, that would be left to his side business, what we come to find is really the family business, which is selling smoked meats. And its this business that the film is really about. You see Vincent is sort of an artist, and he sates the inner artist by thinking of new ways to capture tourists, the key ingredient to his smoked meats. But Vincent always finds ways to get his quarry and manages to keep making his mildly famous meats. And all is right with the world. Until, that is, he stops a motorcycling couple with one of his traps and lets the girl live, smitten with her innocent good looks. And as she stays on at the motel (here is the big Huh of the movie, and frankly, ya gotta let it go or the movie’s lost. Sure, it makes no sense that she’d stay there after her boyfriend dies mysteriously in an accident, even if she didn’t have anyone else to go to, but hell, what can ya do, right?), she begins to slowly fall in love with Vincent, despite the lustful (and frankly creepy, considering he is the hero of the picture) advances of the local sheriff. What she doesn’t know is that Vincent and his sister have a secret garden where they keep their prey, buried to their necks in the ground, and fattened up through tubes while they ripen (their vocal cords are cut, ergo no one hears them screaming), then they are slaughtered, picked, and taken back to the house to be smoked. Old sis doesn’t like this new girl though and distrusts her from the word go, trying to kill her on at least one occasion, and as the sheriff learns the truth of the Vincent’s, the sister’s misgivings come true during a hell of a conclusion. I will save that much for you to see unfold, but man, it’s a hell of an ending, and really makes the movie worth all the corniness. Told with as much wit as it is grotesquerie, this is played wonderfully and never gets really cheesy, even when a couple of swingers check into the motel for some kinky fun. And the real hell of it is that Vincent is far more sympathetic to you than the lecherous sheriff, which I have to think was intentional. This really is a very cool little movie, with some creepy images in it here and there. It really deserves to be rediscovered and hopefully this will help.

Deranged. Here we have the true account of one of the U.S.’s most notorious and gruesome murders, one Ed Gein, the man that gave birth to the ideas behind PsychoandTexas Chainsaw Massacre. The film is told as if it is a documentary, as a host watches from the wings and comments on certain scenes, giving the film an eerie, surreal feel. But believe me, this is straight horror through and through. Roberts Blossom has his shining hour in this dark film, portraying one Ezra Cobb, a middle-aged bachelor living with his overbearing mother. But when mother dies Ezra loses his final grasp on sanity and refuses to let mother go, first speaking to her as if she were alive, then digging her body up and carting it home to keep him company. Mother isn’t enough though and Ezra feels dark sexual urges he cannot control and begins bringing other bodies home to play with. Again though, this isn’t enough, and finally Ezra stalks and murders a woman and his madness is fully revealed. A very grim little film, this version is sadly shorn of a but of gore that had been in a bootleg I saw years back, but otherwise the film looks damn good, and frankly, it’s just good to have it on disc after all this time. Blossom portrays Cobb as such a pathetic, lonely man that you almost pity his madness, even after it leads to murder. He is a man that has no identity but his mother, and without her, he is nothing. Obviously the darker of the two films, this is a great psychological horror film in the darkest sense.

MGM has done it again, and this time they did it twice as nicely. Though both films only feature trailers as their extras, it is nice to have them on DVD, and frankly, to have them together. These are two little known, little seen films and both deserve to get a wider audience. They show the two sides horror has taken since its filmic inception – horror as reality with Deranged – i.e. the horror of madness and the horror within us; and the horror of the surreal – the humor in horror, and the horror in humor. Very highly recommended disc here kids, you get more than your money’s worth, imagine that. …cr…

8 out of 10 Jackasses

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