Directed by: Jim McCullough Sr.
Written by: Jim McCullough Jr.
Starring: Anna Chappell
Reviewed by: Josh G.
While this slasher film was not released until 1986, the picture screams early eighties, therefore, I look at it as, truly, from 1983. The difference between Mountaintop Motel Massacre and, say, any other slasher film being released at the time, is that you know who the killer is off the bat. Evelyn Chambers (Anna Chappell), who may seem like a nice old lady at first, is completely insane! I suppose it’s the first instinct of innocence that adds to her evil. After all, who would suspect a helpless senior citizen of slaughtering a handful of victims? As the movie progresses, she becomes spookier; her eyes are darker, and she has a mysterious, hunched way of walking. She’s no Jason Voorhees, but in her own style, she’s just as devious.
After being released from a mental hospital in 1981, widow Evelyn and her spiritually inclined daughter Lorie (Jill King) are living on their motel’s property. It’s the Mountaintop Motel, a small, atmospheric, and very affordable spot to stay when you need a cheap place to spend the night. It seems as though this former psycho has developed healthy brain cells, and is fit for the public community. Lorie however, doesn’t think so. She’s sure mother is “sick” again, and wants to communicate with her deceased father for guidance. Evelyn however despises her daughter’s fascination with these encounters. Even Lorie’s pets are a nuisance. When Evelyn finds out another séance is in the works, she goes ballistic, and slices everything up with her sickle...including Lorie!
After the fatal accident, Evelyn drags her bloody daughter’s body to the kitchen, and calls the police. She does not quite tell the authorities the entire truth, just that an accident did occur. Reverend Bill McWiley (Bill Thurman), an acquaintance of Evelyn’s, staying at the motel, didn’t see what happened, and he defends the older woman. With no alternate evidence, Evelyn cannot be held responsible. But people still look at her awkwardly. Some still believe that she’s crazy, and that she killed Lorie! Returning from her daughter’s funeral, Evelyn lies down and rests for a bit as Bill goes to his room. She begins to hear Lorie calling out to her in a voice echoing throughout her head. It’s haunting her. Maybe Evelyn isn’t as cured as she once thought, as the voice is triggering her bloodthirsty fury!
Crenshaw (Major Brock), a man of the Bible, stops in at the motel office for a room. Old Evelyn isn’t very talkative, but he gets a key out of her. Vernon (Gregg Brazzel) and Mary (Marian Jones), newlyweds on their honeymoon, check-in soon after, much to Mary’s distaste. She wanted a nice, luxury motel, but like Vernon says, they’re not made of money. Later in the rainy night, Al (Will Mitchel), a single man, picks up cousins Prissy (Amy Hill) and Tanya (Virginia Loridans), whose car has broken down on the side of the road. They too travel down to the Mountaintop Motel. But the cheapo palace comes with some unwanted quirks. The phone lines are down, the lights are flickering off, and a tree has just blocked everybody’s way out. Vernon has been bitten by a snake, rats are crawling in Bill’s bed, and Crenshaw seems to have found himself in the Roach Motel. These are just appetizers for the ultimately doomed guests. Evelyn has something even bigger in store for each and every one of them, and it’s deadly sharp!
The sickle is criminally underrated in most splatter flicks. The curvy, half moon object of hooking can function in many different ways. Throat slices, head gashes, stomach plunges, and severely severed limbs! Hell, hang a few bodies to dry on them. They have the potential to bring out the guts, and thankfully, Mountaintop Motel Massacre manages to do so. The Wind could learn a few pointers from these sickle-related death sequences. As far as casting goes, I was purely shocked. A man like Will Mitchell as the male lead is a terrible choice, and my reasons can be summed up in one word: acting. His expressions aren’t shown enough, he’s an incredibly dull character, and emotions are sometimes misplaced. Searching for fellow actor Major Brock in a dangerous situation, Will appears to be playing a game of hide and go seek, if I didn’t know any better. Never mind that he’s a man of the seventies with that dark, bushy mustache. Plus, he’s a dirty con, tricking women into sleeping with him.
The couple, Vernon and Mary, are also uninteresting, and they seem to have the least amount of screen time. Oddly enough, you still ache in their peril. The real love comes from the two gals, Prissy and Tanya, as well as the church talkers, Crenshaw and Bill. I’m not going to get killed by some “crazy old white woman”. Crenshaw’s touch of humour is amusing, and it adds some life to the feature when moments draw out. Tanya is the character with the most life, which in turn, adds more to her partner in wet white t-shirts, Prissy. The mood is perfect, with no escape, on a rainy night, and eerie music playing at just the right times. A UFO sounding tune plays during some scenes too. The small cabins carry atmosphere around with them wherever they are; inside and out.
I just love the accents on these people. True southerners. And the tag line is classic. “Please do not disturb Evelyn. She ALREADY is.” The climax is, perhaps, one of the biggest downfalls of the piece. You’re expecting a large fight, with loud music and multiple shots. What you get is a lame struggle and a dull realization, with only an alright payoff in the gore department. A nice change of events for this genre entry is that the characterization grows further than normal in an allotted time. Evelyn plays around with the tenants like guinea pigs, setting up animals all of over the place, waiting for the time to strike. And yet, the people still never take off. They needed an extra push to be memorable, one that could have easily been made.
I really like this movie, if not for the setting, for the anticipation of who’s going to go next? Why this baby waited three years to be released is a question I have not found the answer to. It’s better than a gruesome amount of horror films, bad and good, of either subgenre. Making it to the top ten; that’s not likely. Your heart will feel warm though. Evelyn Chambers isn’t necessarily a great movie villain, the story can become eye-shutting, and like I said, the climax is weak. Those cheap, but lovable jump scenes are missing from Mountaintop Motel Massacre, yet the simple slasher formula keeps you interested. The underground system and trapdoors Evelyn uses to get around from room to room with are a nice addition. Anchor Bay released this on DVD in 2001, and although there’s only a trailer, the excellent picture quality just has to be seen. Strangely, this body count gem is often looked down upon. Sad. It needs far more recognition, even with the shitty acting. Buy it!
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