Movie Review: MOTEL HELL

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motel hellUnited Artists
1980
R

“I’m the biggest hypocrite of them all. My meats…I used preservatives.”

Well, here we are. One of the pantheon of legendary cult favorite horror movies that I knew, as a fan of horror flicks, I was required to watch. Hotel Hell was one of those titles that I remembered always seeing on the shelves at the old Applause Video store whenever my family would make the weekly pilgrimage to Fremont, Nebraska in the 1980s, in the Horror section, the box artwork hypnotizing me with the two smiling leads on the cover, somehow conveying a nice balance between friendly and inviting with complete insanity. It simultaneously intrigued me and repulsed me at the same time. Which meant, I so wanted to watch this movie. Of course, at that age, that wasn’t going to happen, as there was no way I was going to convince my parents to rent it. It was always some obscure live action Disney movie or something we would end up getting.

Anyway, long story short, I recently finally gotten around to watching Motel Hell by way of the Amazon streaming service. Having done so, and knowing what kind of cult following this thing has, did I like this? Would my younger tween self have liked this had my parents consented to let me watch it? Well, let’s get to the rundown, and then let’s see if I’m able to ‘splain m’self.

The titular Motel Hell is actually Motel Hello, only the neon light “O” is on the fritz, and keeps blinking out. It’s an out-of-the-way cozy place that’s owned by Farmer Vincent, who is known all over the 30-mile radius for his extremely tasty meat snacks. Along with his sister Ida, they take care of their customers as well as keep up with the meat production. The secret to his famous smoked meats is a blend of pork, which he raises himself organically (or so he says), and also some humans that he can trap from the road that passes by the place. One night, while doing just that, he snags a biker and his girlfriend, knocking both of them out. The biker went into his “human garden” hidden on his farm; the girlfriend gets told her boyfriend died, and so she develops Stockholm Syndrome and begins helping out on the farm. This causes a bit of a rift when a bizarre love triangle between the new girl, who has fallen in love with Farmer Vincent (eeeew), Ida, who doesn’t want to share her older brother (eeeeew) and the younger brother, who’s also the local sheriff, who has the hots for the new girl but is unreciprocated (SEE: in love w/ Farmer Vincent…eeeeew). Things come to a head (no pun intended) when the humans in the Human Garden manage to escape and attack the family, which leads to a chainsaw showdown at the end.

After watching this movie, going in with minimal knowledge of it beyond a couple of hick folks make meat snacks out of people (which always elicits a cry of “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!” from me, regardless of who’s around to hear it), I emerged from this experience…well, not a changed man, per se, but I now understand why Motel Hell is held in such high regard. It’s a black comedy about back road cannibals that isn’t exactly the best one of this sub-sub genre — movies like Parents and the second Texas Chainsaw Massacre would come out later in the decade and prove to be far more effective — but it has a kind of laid-back charm that casts aside the whole political commentary side of things, and just gives us an off-beat story that’s chock full of WTF moments (those swingers, a rock band called Ivan and the Terribles, and the one and only Wolfman Jack as a local televangelist) but also a kind of charm to it, as well as the lo-fi effects kills on and off screen.

Overall, I found Motel Hell quite enjoyable on that campy fun level. It’s not the best one, and you get the impression that the writer and director could have pushed the limits just a bit, but were maybe afraid to do so halfway through the production. But, Motel Hell also is far from the worst one of the bunch. It’s available on the Amazon Prime Streaming, which is how I watched it, but however you take in your movie watchin’ experience, I would urge you to check out Motel Hell at least once.

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Movie Review: ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES

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Movie Review ADDAMS FAMILY VALUESParamount Pictures
1993
PG-13

“You have enslaved him. You have placed Fester under some strange sexual spell. I respect that. But please, may we see him?”

Two years after the first live action Addams Family music delighted my sensibilities, here came a sequel that, somehow, turned out to be just as good as — if not better than — the first movie. The entire cast is back, and everything builds on the wackiness of the first.

We begin the movie immediately with the birth of the newest Addams addition — little Pubert. As such, Gomez and Morticia hire a nanny to take care of the baby. Uncle Fester finds himself smitten with her, while the other children — Wednesday and Pugsley — are less than thrilled with the new additions. Unbeknownst to everyone, the nanny is a serial killer named the Black Widow, whose MO is marrying wealthy bachelors and then killing them to get their fortune. And she has her eye on bagging Uncle Fester. To get the suspicious kids out of the way, she sends them to summer camp, where things go exactly as you would expect for them. Meanwhile, Uncle Fester and the Nanny get hitched, and she then tries to kill him, and things go exactly as you would expect with that. Pubert catches a nasty case of The Normals, and the newly minted Mrs. Addams takes the entire family hostage in frustration. Then things get weird.

Originally watching Addams Family Values in the theater back when this was first released was great. I immediately wanted to own it on video, despite it being a new release at the time. The movie somehow not only duplicated the extremely funny type of whimsical morbid humor that I loved about the first Addams Family movie, but upped it. I especially love the summer camp parts, with Wednesday’s interaction with the normal kids and counselors. To this day, I still sing the “Eat Me” song around Thanksgiving.

Overall, the entirety of Addams Family Values is great. Darkly funny, highly quotable, getting something new out of it every time I watch it…seriously, why am I still writing this review? I am going to watch this movie again. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: The BABYSITTER

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the babysitterNetflix
2017
TV-MA

“Things get messy when you make a deal with the devil.”

Netflix has come a long way from its roots as a DVD mail rental site in 1997. Now it’s been featuring original content with series and movies, and proving these to be of a quality to rival standard television and movie sources. Case in point: The Babysitter.

So, here we have a movie that begins with the main character Cole, a 12-year-old riddled with phobias and bullied constantly by the neighborhood jerk-wad. His only friends seem to be his classmate Melanie and his babysitter Bee. One day, Cole’s parents take off for a weekend getaway, and Cole and Bee have a blast hanging out together, until Cole has to go to bed. Instead of going to sleep, though, he stays up to see what Bee gets up to after hours. Turns out, she and a bunch of her high school chums are engaged in a harmless hybrid game of Spin The Bottle / Truth Or Dare…until one of them is ritually sacrificed. Yeah, it turns out Bee and her friends are part of a Satanic cult, and Cole just witnessed everything. Of course, Bee and her friends try to convince Cole this was all just a science experiment, but he’s not having any of it. So now, what started as a great day, is now a matter of surviving against literal bloodthirsty Satan worshipers. Wackiness ensues.

Man, oh man, was The Babysitter a fun ride. The movie is a good blend of a John Hughes style coming of age teen comedy mixed with 80s style horror, and flavored with some great dark comedy. The script is great, the actors were fantastic, and there was a good balance between the horror and the comedy elements.

Overall, The Babysitter is a great fun movie that is a loving homage to the fun horror flicks from the 1980s. this movie makes a good cause for quality movies that are streaming service originals. Recommended for checking out.

Movie Review: CULT OF CHUCKY

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cult of chuckyUniversal 1440 Entertainment
2017
R

“Okay, let me explain something to you. I am a vintage, mass-marketed children’s toy from the Eighties, standing right in front of you, holding a very sharp scalpel.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes I am.”

Hey, remember the ending of Curse Of Chucky? Presuming you watched Curse Of Chucky. I realize it’s awfully presumptuous of me to just assume you come into this pointless review of yet another sequel in the Child’s Play franchise having watched at least the previous entry. In case you haven’t let me enlighten you: The paraplegic daughter from Curse Of Chucky–Nica…her name is Nica–was found guilty of the murders in that previous movie by way of insanity, and was confined to one of those high-security asylums for the criminally insane. Of which I’m presuming was not named Arkham. Which would be pretty awesome if it was. Anyway…

Well, here we are now, four years after the events in Curse Of Chucky, where we find Nica having a breakthrough of sorts in her intense therapy, and being transferred to a medium security psychiatric hospital. Here we meet the colorful kill fodder for the movie: a tough but fair nurse, another nurse that doesn’t really do much, a guy with multiple identity disorder, a woman who believes she’s dead and is now a ghost haunting the hospital, a rather angry lady who burned her house down, and a lady who committed infanticide with her own son. And also the psychiatrist who is the epitome of creeper. The psychiatrist comes upon the brilliant idea of incorporating a Good Guy doll to the therapy group (really, how easy is it to get ahold of one of those allegedly “vintage” dolls? Is there an entire warehouse full of these unsold atrocities, and some guy with an eBay account?) as a bit of therapy technique. Ah, yes, the ol’ keep them from sleeping due to traumatic nightmares technique. Works every time. Of course, this backfires when the bodies start piling up (again), but of course no one believes it’s the doll. This is a psychiatric ward, after all. Next thing you know, more Chuckies show up and join in the fun, and blood-soaked wackiness does ensue.

Of course, I left out a bit more of that synopsis. Don’t want to spoil all of the surprises. Suffice to say, once again the whole stigma of being a direct-to-video release has been obliterated by the quality of the film itself. Like with Curse Of Chucky, director Don Mancini wasn’t going to let that stop him from crafting another entertaining horror flick with heavy black comedy elements.

Bottom line is that Cult Of Chucky was far more fun than it should have been, and I couldn’t be any more pleased with this entry in the franchise. The scene where the three Chuckies are arguing about who was going to kill series original Andy is worth the price of the rental alone. Cult Of Chucky is another great entry in the series, and should definitely be watched as a double feature with the previous Curse Of Chucky for full effect.

Movie Review: CURSE OF CHUCKY

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curse of chuckyUniversal Home Entertainment
2013
R

“Twenty five years. Since then a lot of families have come and gone. The Barclays, the Kincaids, the Tillys. But you know, Nica, your family was always my favorite. And now, you’re the last one standing. So to speak.”

I have to give credit where credit is due. Of all the classic horror franchises to have come out of the 1980s, it has been the Child’s Play series that have been the most consistent with knocking ’em out of the park. Sure, Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street and Hellraiser franchises may have more movies under their belt (so far), but when it comes to hits versus duds, there’s really only been one dud for the Child’s Play series (that would be Child’s Play 3, aka Chucky Goes To Military School). Even when the series said “screw it” and started leaning toward black comedy when horror movies were becoming more self-aware and meta during the 1990s with Bride Of Chucky, they’ve at least have been far more entertaining than they should really be. Sure, Seed Of Chucky was a little more goofy, but entertainingly so.

Anyway, Curse Of Chucky is the first continuation of the Child’s Play franchise since the aforementioned Seed Of Chucky. There was talk for a while of doing a reboot of the first one, but I for one am glad they decided to go with a direct-to-video sequel that looses none of the previous movies cannon (if you can call it that), but forges ahead with its own story that manages to retain the entertainment, but also goes back to basics, kind of.

The story takes place at a remote old Victorian house, where a reclusive mother lives with her wheelchair bound college-age daughter. She’s very overprotective of her, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since birth due to a trauma while in utero. One day, they receive a mysterious package delivery containing a Good Guy doll, something neither of them recall ordering. Later that night, there’s a scream, and the daughter discovers her mother’s body lying in a pool of her own blood, dead of an apparent “suicide”. Seen, the sister of the daughter and her family come over to help bury their mother…and also try to convice her to sell the house because the sister is a horrible human being. The sister’s young daughter finds the Good Guy doll and bonds with it. Of course, faster than you can say, “Chucky did it”, the bodies begin to pile up, and no one can believe that an inanimate doll is perpetrating these murders. Soon, Chucky plays his cards, and reveals himself as the killer. But, of course, who would believe a doll committed all of them murders? No one, that’s who.

I have to admit, Curse Of Chucky was a far more entertaining horror movie than I initially gave credit for. I’m afraid that, despite many examples to the contrary, there’s still a stigma about straight-to-video release movies not being as good as theatrically released movies. Especially when we’re dealing with higher-numbered sequels. Here, though, long-time director of the Chucky movies Don Mancini decided not to go the cheep route, and has produced a theater release-quality film that holds up to the previous entries. It’s effective on both the horror and dark comedy, and manages some new spins on a well-worn concept by keeping things in the shadows for the majority of the time. In the end, Curse Of Chucky is what you would expect–a B horror movie that’s highly entertaining and unabashedly so. If you never liked the Child’s Play movies, Curse Of Chucky probably isn’t going to turn your opinion around. If, however, you’re a fan of the series, Curse Of Chucky is mighty satisfyin’ watchin’, indeed. Recommended.

Movie Review: AMERICAN PSYCHO

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american psychoLionsgate
2000
R

Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my god, it even has a watermark!

 

Patrick Bateman is a Wall Street yuppie obsessed with success, status and style. His co-workers, like Paul Allen, are just as obsessed with success, status and style. However, there’s one thing that sets Patrick apart from his co-workers. He is also a psychotic killer who rapes, murders and dismembers both strangers and acquaintances without provocation or purpose. With Detective Donald Kimball on his tail, Bateman seems to be leading himself into a spiraling downfall of insanity and defeat…and all the while, he’s still able to throw a few Huey Lewis and the News facts your way.

American Psycho is one of those movies that I’ve seen a few times prior, but haven’t gotten around to pounding out a review of, mainly because it also happens to be one of those movies that defies being lumped into just one category. Certainly, one would stick this in the general horror genre, maybe even in the psychological thriller sub-category. You might even be forgiven for thinking this is just another slasher flick, going by the title and movie poster art alone. But, first impressions going into American Psycho are deceiving.

On the surface level, yes, American Psycho certainly is a kind of slasher horror movie, about a wealthy New York investment banker in the later part of the 1980s with a taste for pop music and elaborate business cards who begins offing people, possibly due to the stress of his lifestyle. But, the way he goes about his homicidal tendencies falls squarely in the “Black Comedy” style that will have you laughing and shaking your head at the utter absurdity of it all. But then, subtly at first but then rather evident as the story unfolds, reality itself seems to be breaking down right before your eyes, taking a serious Aronofsky style mind-bending psychological twist.

It’s because of these aspects, and also the great acting by Christian Bale and the 80s setting that has made American Psycho stick in my head all this time. And I’ve watched it several times, mainly because I’m still trying to figure that ending out. Yeah, I know I had it explained to me, but I keep thinking I’m missing some kind of subtle nuance to give me that “Oh, right, I gotcha”. Also, naked Christian Bale wielding a chainsaw. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Overall, American Psycho is twisted, will mess with your head, and make you wonder what you just watched by the end. All the while, you can’t not keep watching. Recommended.