"Welcome to the Mountaintop Motel, a run-down place in the woods just off the county road. Meet Evelyn Chambers, the strange old woman who's been running the place ever since her release from the Arkansas State Mental Hospital. But when a violent accident flips her crazy switch, the evil voices in Evelyn's head send her on a room-to-room rampage. In the long night of slaughter that follows, a group of stranded guests will discover that this is one motel where check-out time can be bloody murder.
This early '80s drive-in favourite features classic moments of amateur acting, cheap effects and genuinely creepy atmosphere. Welcome to the MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE, where hard-travelling horror fans can always find a night of sleazy psycho shocks."
“Don’t disturb Evelyn, she already is!”. There’s no disputing it, that’s one of the greatest slasher trash tagline classics, up there with THE PREY’s (1980) “It’s got an axe and it’s not human!”. It’s a shame then that MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE just doesn't live up to the promise of its tagline. Unfortunately, check in to this dump and you’re in for one night in dullsville.
The eponymous motel is actually a series of dilapidated cabins setback in the woods off a local highway. It’s run by Evelyn (Anna Chappell), a middle-aged, ex-mental patient you kinda suspect they let out too soon. Certainly, her teenage daughter, Lorri (Jill King), thinks so, but then again Lorri also seems a banana short of a fruit bowl, too. She tells her Dad she thinks Mom should go back to the mental hospital, which is only weird when you see she’s talking to her dead Father’s photo whilst summoning up the forces of darkness at a doll’s tea party attended by a goat and a rabbit! Evelyn had already been driven to distraction by Lorri’s guinea pig nibbling on her greens in the garden; she shouts to the girl to come and take it away, but she doesn’t so Evelyn offs the critter’s head (offscreen thankfully) with a handy hand scythe (are those requisite tools on an allotment?). Then, stumbling onto the black mass her daughter is holding in the tunnels under the motel complex (as you do), Evelyn throws a whirling dervish hissy-fit with scythe in hand. Finally coming to a stop, she sees that she’s accidentally cut up her daughter, so she drags her through the trapdoor into the kitchen and phones an ambulance - telling the gullible police it was a freak gardening accident. Guess it was a good job CSI were out of town!
The paramedics aren’t able to save Lorri. She’s laid to rest, and in one of the film’s few moderately arresting sequences, a paranoid Evelyn hears the voices of all the mourner’s accusing her of killing her daughter. The funeral is presided over by Rev Bill McWiley (Bill Thurman) – an alcoholic preacher who’s one of Evelyn’s few permanent guests.
Evelyn returns to the motel, where her mind continues to unravel. On a dark and stormy night (aren’t they always), a variety of guest turn up: Grimshaw (Major Brock), the old black Carpenter; the newlyweds, Vernon (Gregg Brazzel) and Mary (Marian Jones) (who sound like they’re straight outta Baltimore, from the John Waters school of acting, and spout dialogue like “I’m so horny I can’t stand it!”); Al (Will Mitchell), the advertising executive who pretends he’s the head of Columbia records so he can seduce a couple of fog-horned ladies, cousins Tanya (Virginia Loridans) and the slightly less gullible, but daftly named, Prissy (Amy Hill), who break down in their bright red VW beetle in the storm and sport requisite tight wet t-shirts.
Presumably not only channelling Norman Bates but his nutty mother also, Evelyn (prompted by her dead daughter thoughtfully telling her “Momma, you gotta kill ‘em. They want to send you back to the hospital. Everyone must die!”) grabs her trusty scythe and ventures into the catacombs below the motel ...
MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE should be a blast, but sadly it’s not. A few half-decent gore murders not withstanding, it’s actually pretty dull. Quite how you make a film about a homicidal, scythe-wielding psychopath slicing up guests at a isolated motel so dull I don’t know, but these film makers have certainly achieved this dubious honour. If I had to describe the film in one word it’d be ‘ponderous’ – rarely, if ever, does it ratchet up anything approaching suspense or fright. I guess, despite her murderous intent, Evelyn looks more like an old dear who’s misplaced her false teeth rather than someone the audience should fear - Sheila Keith she aint. The music doesn’t help: it sounds like some sub-gothic dirge from a 60’s B-movie (all supposedly spooky organ sounds), completely destroying any last remnants of cheese charm from the bad perms and fashion no-nos on display. However, there’s a few chuckles to be had, especially from some amusingly ripe acting from Tanya – who is fine as the good-time country gal, but goes hilariously bug-eyed and gurns like a guppy fish with an anxiety complex when Evelyn comes a creeping! The film has a vaguely grimy sheen missing from most later slashers (it’s low budget, but at least it’s shot on film).
Of minor interest, the film was released in 1983, but looks like it was made a few years before (and wasn't actually released until 1986 by New Line).
Ultimately, it’s one to avoid, unless you pick Anchor Bay’s double DVD where it’s coupled with the much more entertaining THE INITIATION (also 1983).
BODYCOUNT 7 female:4 / male:31) Female repeatedly slashed with hand scythe