• Mountaintop Motel Massacre



    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: February 1st, 2017.
    Director: Jim McCullough Sr.
    Cast: Bill Thurman, Anna Chappell, Will Mitchell
    Year: 1986
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    The Movie:

    Mountaintop Motel Massacre revolves around an aging woman named Evelyn (Anna Chappell), recently released from an insane asylum and not residing at a remote motel out in the hills – the only motel around for miles, it would seem. When the movie begins, she kills off her kid but when the cops show up to check out the scene she’s able to convince them it was an accident. Shortly after this, she starts hearing the voice of her dead daughter in her head… and the voice is urging her to kill!

    At any rate, our geriatric female Norman Bates has clearly got issues. She’s also got some sort of strange underground bunker that works as a sort of tunnel system, allowing her to run around underneath the different cabins at her motel undetected by anyone unfortunate enough to rent a room there. A few different characters show up at the motel this night – an old black carpenter named Crenshaw (Major Brock), an alcoholic man of the cloth named Reverend Bill McWilley (the always awesome Bill Thurman), a guy impersonating a record company executive hoping to make it with two chicks at the same time and a pair of newlyweds. Evelyn make things difficult for all of them – at first it’s more of an annoyance than a danger. Nobody likes cockroaches so it’s kind of yucky when she lets a bunch of them loose in one room, but you’re not likely going to die from that – buddy just sort of laughs it off and says ‘They oughta call this a roach motel!’

    Likewise, when she lets a bunch of rodents into one guy’s room, he’s icked out but he isn’t killed by them. Things get a bit more dangerous when our newlyweds stupidly ignore a dirty sack in the middle of their room. What’s inside? They don’t care, they just want to fuck, but fucking will prove their follow because there’s a poisonous snake in there! It bits the new hubby on the face and he swells up pretty bad leaving wifey for lifey in search of help. It isn’t until the last third of the film that Evelyn goes from hygiene impaired hostess to maniacal serial killer but at least she gets there eventually.

    The movie starts off with a good gory kill then tones down the bloodshed for an hour, only to ramp it back up again for the final scene. Those wanting a film full of bloody carnage might be disappointed as this one is a bit light in that department but don’t let that dissuade you. Mountaintop Motel Massacre has a lot to like about it. First of all, there’s the setting – this motel is dirty. Anyone who would stay there is really asking for trouble but as all of this takes place on a dark and stormy night where our guests understandably don’t really want to drive, we can forgive them for staying at a place clearly run by a psychotic person. But those tunnels, that’s an interesting twist and they’re kind of neat. It’s also somehow kind of endearing to see our chief antagonist poking around the place basically playing bad pranks on people before giving in to the voices in her head and going full on psycho.

    The performances are great in a strange sort of way. The guy who plays the old black dude and the guy who plays they priest, they’re both a lot of fun here – Bill Thurman is awesome in everything he’s in - and you’ve got to love the suave dude trying to get a three-way going with two chicks who really can’t sing very well (we witness this first hand as they audition for him by delivering a terrible version of Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night!). Anna Chappell is the real star here, however, because she goes all in. Her turn as Evelyn is a fully committed one, she cackles a lot and utters some great crazy lines with no small amount of legitimate enthusiasm. This, coupled with the flat out bizarre and semi-seedy atmosphere that the movie conjures up, makes Mountaintop Motel Massacre a pretty fun watch. Yeah, there are occasional lags in the pacing and fine, a lot of dumb, inexplicable stuff happens but there’s enough goofy highjinks and wonky horror elements going on here to make this more than satisfying.

    Weird trivia note – this movie was written by Jim McCullough Jr., the same guy who wrote Creature From Black Lake. It was directed, however, by Jim McCullough Sr. – his dad – how happened to produce Black Lake. They also worked together on a few other movies: The St. Tamminey Murders, Video Murders, The Aurora Encounters and Charge Of The Model T’s.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Mountaintop Motel Massacre arrives on Blu-ray from 88 Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Generally speaking, the image quality here is pretty solid. There are some shots that look a bit softer than others but this more than likely has to do with the way that the movie was shot, as do a few scenes that are just a tad darker than maybe they need to be. Issues inherent in the original photography aside, the picture, for the most part, shows nice detail and solid texture. Black levels are good and skin tones look nice and natural. No obvious compression artifacts were noticed during playback and the image appears free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. All in all, a nice, film-like transfer for a fairly gritty looking movie.

    The English language LPCM Stereo track is fine. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion, the dialogue sounds clean and clear and the music has good range and presence to it. There isn’t a ton of channel separation here but this would seem to be a pretty accurate representation of the movie’s intended sound mix.

    The main extra feature on the disc is a featurette called Mountaintop Motel Memories with Production Designer Drew Edward Hunter. This piece runs twenty-one minutes and here Hunter talks about how he got into the world of design and art after falling in love with Fantasia, landing the gig working on Mountaintop Motel Massacre and how he was responsible specifically for the production design on the film. He then goes on to discuss what was entailed in all of that, the role he played in some of the film’s graphic murder scenes, working on a low budget to create what he had to create for the film and the difficulties of having to recreate the tunnels when reshoots were required. He then goes on to share some interesting stories from the set and talk about his interactions with the different cast and crew members he worked with on this project.

    Outside of that the disc includes a stills gallery, the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. Gotta love that front sleeve art too – anyone who was anywhere near a video store in the eighties will recognize that cover. The disc is packaged with some nice reversible cover art and comes packaged in a slipcover. Also included inside the red Blu-ray case is an insert booklet containing an essay from Calum Waddell entitled Mountaintop Motel Madness that offers up a history of the picture and lends some insight into what makes the film work. The essay is accompanied by a nice selection of the artwork that Hunter came up with during his time working on the picture.

    The Final Word:

    Mountaintop Motel Massacre might not top anyone’s ‘best slashers of the 80’s’ list but it’s a pretty entertaining picture with some memorable set pieces, enjoyably odd characters and a few decent kills. 88 Films gives the picture its worldwide Blu-ray debut with a disc that is light on extras but which looks and sounds quite good. All in all, a solid release for a fun film.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!