There are some horror films that are plain difficult to watch. Cannibal Holocaust, The Human Centipede–heck, even The Exorcist churned more than its share of guts and left audiences either covering their eyes or abandoning their seats. But perhaps even more terrifying is the fright flick that’s repulsive not for its gore, but for its dreadful performances, plot and dialogue.
Thus, this week’s entry, Motel Hell. Like the bastard love child of Psycho and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Motel Hell features plenty of gas-powered, cannibalistic carnage for the wayward traveler, but tries hard to interject humor. It tries waaaayyyy too hard, in fact, but still remains endearing as a cult favorite for some twisted, inexplicable reason–sort of like hot dogs in macaroni and cheese.
And speaking of cured meats, well, there’s no shortage in Motel Hell. The entire plot revolves around it, in fact, as Farmer Vincent owes his small modicum of success to his talent with human scrapple (and a dash or two of his secret spice blend). His gleaming, toothy grin adds to his endearing charm with the ladies. Honestly, what unassuming damsel wouldn’t be smitten after his offer to teach her “the ancient art of meat smoking?”
But even such stellar writing (and the funnybone ticklin’ talents of John Ratzenberger and Wolfman Jack) aren’t enough to rescue this motel from condemnation. So why are we here at ScreamFish devoting so many megabytes to it? Just like the correct answer to every children’s sermon ever, it’s Jesus.
So grab your jerky and make your reservation.
We’ll leave a light on for you.
Long before Michelle Pfeiffer’s neon “O” (along with the “T”) dropped from the “Hello There” sign that hung on her kitchen wall in “Batman Returns,” the big “O” burned out on the sign in front of the “Motel Hello,” leaving us with Motel Hell. And if you’ve ever spent a night in this 1980 low-budget turkey, you’ll feel like that is exactly where you’ve ended up.
It’s an hour and half that you’ll never get back, as disappointing as one towel for the whole week and as annoying as a California King-sized helping of bedbugs. But yet it endures, loved as legendary by horror fans–likely for its sheer awfulness.
Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun) doles out his friendliest grins to out-of-towners, waiting with a tankful of knock-out gas behind his back, whether he captures them on the road or collects them from one of the two-bed efficiencies in his fine establishment (the aforementioned Motel Hello). And while he makes a fine front desk man, Farmer Vincent’s real talent lies in…well, farming. But man does he raise some cantankerous crops. That’s because he and his manly sister, Ida (Nancy Parsons) plant the unsuspecting visitors he nabs, leaving them neck-deep in the loam at the far end of his property. He keeps them catatonic with a hypno-disc light machine that looks suspiciously like the rotating light wheels used to illuminate the aluminum Christmas trees that were all the rage decades ago.
And as a tri-letter psychopath, good old Vince also excels at his third career: meat-making. Little do any of his customers know that the main ingredient in the decidely-less-than-world-famous Farmer Vincent’s Spiced Meats is his other customers. Yessir, spiced meats don’t get much fresher than Farmer Vincent’s, ’cause he plucks ’em straight from the garden and immediately goes to processing in the barn right behind the motel, chainsaw in hand. And don’t judge him if he decides to wear a pig head on top of his own silvery dome while he’s working. That many jobs can be stressful on a man.
There’s a subplot or two that are about as complex as as your average 80’s porn film (so I’ve heard), but they do little to add to or detract (yep, it’s just that impossible) from the horror that is Motel Hell. Yet still, there are legions of fans who would consider such criticism as blasphemous and, if you don’t believe me, just do a quick Internet search and you’ll find page after page praising its weird genre-bending, head cheese-like mashup of goofiness.
So what, dear reader, does any of Motel Hell have to do with Jesus?
Nothing. Not a durned thing.
Not in plot at least.
I’m sure if I dug a theological well deep enough to drop a hypnotized hippy in I’d be able to pull off someth…
Nope. Not possible.
But as a whole, the film in and of itself can teach us a little bit about Jesus’s love for us.
Just as I can’t understand how anyone can find any redeeming quality in Motel Hell, I likewise cannot see how our Savior–the very creator of Heaven and Earth–sees anything worthwhile in us.
More precisely, I can’t see how he sees anything worthwhile in me.
I don’t know your story, but I know mine. You’ve probably got a few more ticks in your “redemptive” column, but me–well, I know the stuff I’ve done–the stuff I will most assuredly do again–and I’ve gotta admit, I don’t see why God would give me a second glance, much less a return viewing and one more chance.
But praise God, He has and He continues to. He loves me more than a legion of gorehounds love pig-headed chainsaw-totin’ hippy-farmers (hard to believe, but possible). And though he sees the ridiculousness of my hodgepodge of plots, he withholds a scathing review and keeps coming back to enjoy the whole thing all over again.
The Apostle Paul wrestled with this same dilemma. He knew his life played out like the most un-watch-able drama ever, but he knew that God loved him, nonetheless (inexplicably so, he admits). In Romans, he writes:
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
(Romans 7: 21-25, 8: 1-4)
None of our lives will ever be Oscar-worthy; in fact none of them are even Salvation worthy. But God loved us so much that he gave us that most precious gift–a broken, beaten Savior adorned in Salvation and worth far more than any golden statue. And he gave us that Grace In Flesh because he knew there was no way we could earn it on our own.
So don’t always worry about how crazy your plot seems. It’s already smashing records with the One who really matters.
Forget the critics, just listen to the Director.
And your story will become the stuff of legend.