Originally filmed in 1983 but distributed in 1986, Mountaintop Motel Massacre was directed by Jim McCullough. Sr. You've probably never heard of this man, and neither have I for that matter, as his filmography as director, producer, and writer is extremely limited compared to the other masters of horror in the genre. His son is also in the business, credited as the writer and co-producer for this film. For those of you who are acquainted with 1980's Motel Hell or Eaten Alive starring Robert Englund from 1977, you may be pleased to know that Mountaintop Motel Massacre (that really is a mouthful isn't it?) slightly resembles the two but cannot be considered a reproduction of either.
The story begins with a brief introduction of Evelyn Chambers, a middle-aged woman who was admitted to Arkansas State Mental Hospital from 1978 to 1981. The film brings us to present day and we quickly learn that Evelyn runs a mountain-side motel with her daughter Lori. After discovering that Lori has an interest in the occult and secretly performs rituals in the bowels of the complex, Evelyn loses her sense of composure and reason; causing her to relapse into insanity and resort to her murderous tendencies. The death of her daughter raises suspicion among the community, especially that of the town Sheriff and the Reverend Bill McWiley (played by Bill Thurman - I drew a connection to him from the 1985 western Silverado). The Sheriff does not believe that the heinous act was a result of an accident but murder. In the aftermath of Lori's funeral, Evelyn continues doing business at her motel with various strangers from the road looking to shack-up for the night - only there's one problem: Evelyn's mental state is in disarray and her psychotic behavior upon the denizens of the motel has just begun.
One of the best features contained within this title is the soundtrack - it's wonderfully eerie. Fans who are curious of this film shouldn't expect a full musical score with a brass and wood section but a more synth-based medium and a few notes played at a time in a slow and ghoulish manner. In some cases, that's all a film requires - especially one with a premise like this. The motel environment is dark and foreboding (perhaps a little too dark in certain areas but the copy I was watching is a VHS rip) and for fun, a macabre and bizarre doll motif is tossed into the tumbler of horrors. Naturally, there's a storm brooding on the horizon and eventually we see a flash of lightning through the windows - just a typical illustration to heighten the experience for the audience. In modern film, this cliche is often mocked or ridiculed; understandable of course but every genre has over-used and vapid expressions of mood.
Individuals who have seen Moutaintop Motel Massacre compare it laterally with 2007's Vacancy starring Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale. Give it a rest, guys. The two movies aren't anything alike, at all...the only correlation that's apparent is the use of a secluded motel with a crazed owner. Is Mountaintop Motel Massacre a rip-off of Psycho? No. Elitists need to stop drinking the "we hate the mainstream because it's popular" Kool-Aid. I'm not an ardent supporter of all things trendy but a line needs to be drawn somewhere. What can we learn about this rant? Mountaintop Motel Massacre is a film of its own.
This film wallows in a Slasher concoction but it's not exclusive to it. The term "mood piece" has been used to describe this movie - it's a perfect label, too. The spree-killings are not ingenious or original and the actor who plays Evelyn is less than impressive. Aside from Bill Thurman, most of the cast started and ended their careers with Mountaintop Motel Massacre; accurately designating it as a B-rated flick. Nevertheless, with a cheap budget and an amateur assemblage of thespians, the end result is gratifying and stands as a deserving inclusion to my collection.