• Mountaintop Motel Massacre (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 24th, 2019.
    Director: Jim McCullough Sr.
    Cast: Bill Thurman, Anna Chappell, Will Mitchell
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Mountaintop Motel Massacre – Movie Review:

    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.

    Mountaintop Motel Massacre – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Mountaintop Motel Massacre to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. While some of the darker scenes are still really dark, an issue with the way that the movie was shot, this is otherwise a great picture. There isn’t much print damage to note outside of the odd white speck here and there and, if you look for it, a small scratch here and there. Colors look good and black levels are sold. Shadow detail is hindered by the photography but it’s not bad. The film is given a nice, healthy bit-rate here and there are no problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Skin tones also look good, nice and lifelike.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is clean and properly balanced and comes with optional English subtitles. No problems to note with any of the audio. Dialogue stays clean, clear and nicely balanced throughout and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with Under The Influence, an interview with cameraman David Akin that runs just over twelve-minutes. In this piece Akin speaks candidly about how he befriended Jim McCullough Jr. who introduced him to McCullough Sr., which led to his working on the picture. Given that Akin had a healthy interest in how things worked behind the scenes of a movie, it was a natural fit. He speaks about how the McCullough’s and Charles Pierce were the first to really shoot in and around New Orleans and the impact that they had on the local industry, what it was like working with some of the cast members, the education and training that he got in Texas, dealing with unions, how he got along with chief cinematographer Joseph M. Wilcots and the storied life and career that he had. He also discusses how the ending was changed during the production of the film, the trickiness involved in creating and shooting in tunnels, the importance of the set design in the movie and how grateful he is to the McCullough’s and Wilcots for launching his career.

    Carried over from the 88 Films release 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.

    Also included on the disc an original theatrical trailer for the feature, two still galleries (one featuring behind the scenes images and the other containing a selection of archival articles), menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie taken from the same restoration and featuring the same extras.

    Additionally, this limited edition release which is currently only available from Vinegar Syndrome directly, includes some great reversible cover art and a collectible slipcover.

    Mountaintop Motel Massacre – 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. Vinegar Syndrome has done a fine job bringing this underappreciated horror picture to Blu-ray with a sparkly fresh presentation and some great extras.

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

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Fundi's Avatar
      Fundi -
      I saw this movie like 15 years ago and it was horrible, guess it's good it's back in print though, so others can watch this horrible movie.
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      Entertaining flick.