Screams From The Crypt: Sibling Rivalry
Welcome back to Screams from the Crypt, the Talk Film Society’s home for horror! This week, Matt shares two films that feature some devilish siblings.
It's summertime and school is out! That means good times on vacation, BBQ, and cracking open a cold one with the boys. It also means seeing your family a lot more often. For most people that can be a fun time but for the characters in this week's Screams from the Crypt double feature, sibling rivalry can be murder.
Madhouse (1981) d. Ovidio G. Assonitis
Beginning with a truly haunting rendition of 'When the Bough Breaks', Assonitis' 1981 slasher Madhouse is WTF from start to finish. As soon as I popped in the new Blu-ray from Arrow Video I knew this would be right up my alley, with an opening title sequence straight out of a nightmare, Madhouse looked to be all sorts of fun. The basic elevator pitch is that two twin sisters, separated thanks to one's insanity, have a birthday coming up, and the crazy one is none too pleased.
The sane sister is currently working as a teacher at a local school for the deaf and living the life she'd always dreamed of. A good job that she loves, friends that care for her, a successful boyfriend, and a Reverend uncle that looks out for her. This is all thanks to her sister's current incarceration at the local looney bin where in addition to being batshit crazy, has also become horribly deformed as a result of a rare disease. A few days before their birthday, Crazy Mary breaks out in order to terrorize and murder Julia and her friends. A ridiculous premise to be sure, but the tense kills and gore factor make this a picture that's sure to garner some cheers from genre fans.
Surprisingly good for the budget, makeup effects and cinematography also help Madhouse stand out from the pack of early 80s slashers. Add in some terrifically campy performances and you've got a great time with friends. Be warned however that the most gruesome kill in the picture involves a murderous Rottweiler and a power drill which elicited a loud “What the hell?!” during my viewing. All that said, Arrow did a great job with the package, filling it to the brim with in-depth bonus features and a gorgeous new restoration that makes the previous transfer look like a joke in comparison.
Motel Hell (1980) d. Kevin Connor
Ah yes, the brother/sister murdering duo of Vincent and Ida Smith, two motel proprietors with a knack for good eatin’ and wild pig masks. This is an older Scream Factory release but no less worthy of discussion, as it's also one of the more entertaining films in their catalog. Legendary character actor Rory Calhoun steals the show as Vincent Smith, a local yokel known for Farmer Vincent's Fritters, delicious treats he sells to folks passing through town. Little do they realize that the famous Fritters are made from the body parts of misbehaving lodgers of the motel he runs along with his sister, a fact that leads to all sorts of lewd acts and over the top kills.
Released in 1980 and originally intended to be a Tobe Hooper project, Motel Hell is a high concept slasher with an eye for dark comedy, akin to a redneck version of Eating Raoul. The laughs come quick and loose and are as rampant as the kills and shocking revelations of the roadside attraction where Motel Hell takes place. Kevin Connor (From Beyond the Grave) directs it with a light touch that's perfect for the story being told, as silly as it is. The performances are all solid and really work to sell what horror there is to be found here, as most of it is played for straight up laughs with Vincent and Ida’s bickering being a blast and half and about twice as fun. These are fairly lived in characters, which is always a nice respite from killers who just phone it in and collect a paycheck.
The set design for Motel Hell should also be commended as the look of the farm itself is pretty darn cool. After doing away with the sleazeballs that inhabit his motel, Vincent plants his victims like carrots, their heads poking out from the dirt in a truly hilarious and gruesome display. As is to be expected from Scream Factory, the transfer and bonus features are exemplary, featuring interviews with the cast and crew along with a 25-minute making of doc that shows how the entire endeavor was assembled. It's a disc that belongs in your collection if it sounds anywhere near your style.
That's all for this week's installment of Screams From The Crypt. We'll be back soon, so until next time...
Stay Tuned and Stay Scared!