Directed by Jim McCullough Sr. [Other horror films: N/A]
With a title like Mountaintop Motel Massacre (which is quality alliteration, by the way), I’d sort of expect the film to be a bit more cheesy. As it is, this film isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t feel at all like most 80’s horror, and almost possesses a bit of a somber feeling to it.
It also stands apart by not being the natural slasher that one might expect by reading the plot. There is some slashing, but beforehand, we’re given something like twenty minutes to get to know the killer, an older woman recently released from a psychiatric institution. It feels more like a character piece at the beginning, the horror not fully kicking in until would-be victims rent a cabin from her.
And because of that, things don’t really pick up until forty or so minutes into the film. It doesn’t help that, at the beginning, our insane woman is content with just scaring her many guests (by letting snakes, rats, and roaches into their rooms). It sort of helps with creating a dark atmosphere, what with her creeping around in underground tunnels and letting bugs loose into peoples’ cabins, but it’s not always the most enthralling material.
Anna Chappell was perfectly acceptable as a woman who’s lost it, but after a while, with little character insight, I can’t say she made an amazing impression. Most of the rest of the cast are in the same boat, sadly. Amy Hill and Virginia Loridans looked good in white, wet t-shirts, and Will Mitchell rocked a solid moustache, I guess. I did sort of like Major Brock in his sole movie role, and Bill Thurman did have some feeling, but these two are the only ones that really stand out.
If it weren’t for the sluggish nature of a lot of the film, I think I’d like the movie more. Once the killing starts, it’s not too shabby. Chappell’s character uses a sickle to kill, which is an inspired choice, and the special effects aren’t half bad. A woman gets badly struck in the face, someone loses a hand, another has their throat slit. When things actually start going down, they go down well. It’s just getting there that’s half the battle.
Now in this movie’s defense, I do appreciate how it attempts to stand out from many of the other horror films at the time by avoiding 80’s sensibilities, such as fun. That might sound like an insult, but it’s more me trying to say that this movie feels much more like a product of the late 70’s than it does the early 80’s. It’s not campy whatsoever, and while there’s an amusing line here and there, the whole atmosphere is somewhat oppressive and somber.
Even so, it’s not my piece of cake. When I first saw this one many years back, I think I was similarly befuddled, because I don’t recollect too much about my reaction, and seeing it with fresh eyes, I can get why a younger me would be confused. Mountaintop Motel Massacre is a movie that should be a cult classic, and perhaps it even is, but it’s not my thing. It’s still worth seeing, to be sure, but if you go in expecting a traditional 80’s slasher, you may not be in for a good time.
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