Motel Hell appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an erratic but acceptable image.
For the most part, sharpness looked fine. A little softness cropped up on occasion, and I couldn’t call the film razor-sharp, but it showed pretty positive delineation the majority of the time. No issues with jaggies or shimmering materialized, and I saw no signs of edge haloes.
Print flaws became the biggest problem with the image, mainly due to small specks. These weren’t a constant distraction, but they cropped up more often than I’d like. The image mostly lacked other problems, though.
In terms of colors, the film opted for a natural palette. Overall, the hues seemed appealing; while they didn’t leap off the screen, they showed reasonable pep and clarity. Blacks were fairly dark and tight, and low-light shots offered decent smoothness. Though the image could’ve been cleaner, it still offered decent visuals.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack, it seemed fine for its age. Don’t expect a whole lot from the stereo soundscape, though, as effects didn’t offer a lot of breadth. They occasionally spread mildly to the sides but the track maintained a largely monaural impression.
The mix delivered pretty good stereo music, and that became a bonus. Given the film’s age, genre and budget, I expected mono sound, so I was pleased to find this stereo track, limited though it may be.
Audio quality showed its age but held up fairly well. Speech showed occasional edginess – usually during screams - but the lines remained intelligible and were usually reasonably natural. Music was pretty full and rich, whereas effects seemed decent; those elements lacked much punch but they didn’t display notable problems. This was a better than average track given its era.
Like many Shout! Factory releases, Motel Hell comes with with plentiful extras. These open with an audio commentary director Kevin Connor. Along with moderator Dave Parker, this track looks at aspects of Connor’s career and how he came to Motel Hell, sets and locations, story/characters, cast and performances, music, sound, effects and related domains.
The commentary starts well but sputters somewhat as it progresses. Both Connor and Parker manage to remain engaging, and we get decent material across the entire movie’s running time. However, these moments show up less frequently as the film goes, so expect an inconsistent chat.
The disc comes with a bunch of featurettes, and these launch with It Takes All Kinds: The Making of Motel Hell. In this 24-minute, 33-second show, we hear from Connor, writers/producers Robert Jaffe and Steven-Charles Jaffe, and actor Marc Silver. “Kinds” looks at inspirations/influences and the movie’s origins/development, Connor’s take on the material and issues with the studio, casting, sets and locations, and the film’s reception.
Some inaccuracies occur here, such as the claim Nancy Parsons got her role here due to Porky’s even though the latter didn’t come out until 1982. Overall, though, “Kinds” offers a nice overview and turns into an enjoyable program.
Visuals come to the fore in Shooting Old School. This 15-minute, 45-second piece offers comments from director of photography Thomas Del Ruth as he discusses how he came into the movie business, his move to cinematography, and his work on Motel Hell. This becomes a tight, informative show.
During the 18-minute, nine-second Ida, Be Thy Name, we locate comments from author/critic Staci Layne Wilson, Critic Twitch Film’s Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg, and actors Chantelle Albers and Elissa Dowling. They look at women in horror films and related subjects. A few interesting elements emerge, but the program feels unfocused and scattershot; it’s not an especially concise discussion, especially as it digresses into “strong women” in general.
A former Playboy Playmate chats about her experiences during From Glamour to Gore. In the 11-minute, 28-second reel, actor Rosanne Katon goes over her launch into show business as well as aspects of the Hell shoot. No great moments emerge, but Katon offers some decent thoughts.
Finally, Another Head on the Chopping Block goes for 14 minutes, 52 seconds and contributes memories from actor Paul Linke. He talks about his time on Hell as well as other aspects of his career. Like other clips, this one doesn’t deliver a bunch of insights, though I do like Linke’s willingness to criticize the film.
The set also includes Photo Galleries. We find “Behind the Scenes” (17 shots) and “Posters and Production” (127). Both offer good images, though obviously the majority of the material shows up in the second collection.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find ads under More from Shout! Factory. This area provides clips for The Funhouse, Terror Train, The Fog and It Came Without Warning.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Hell. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.
With Motel Hell, we find part of a good horror movie, especially in its first act. It starts well but loses its way as it progresses. The Blu-ray offers erratic but acceptable picture and audio as well as a nice array of supplements. Hell comes with some high-quality moments but its lack of consistency harms it.