Wednesday, November 2

Mountaintop Motel (1983) - 1985 Media/Tohokushinsha Home Video Japan VHS

After the accidental killing and subsequent cover up of her daughter, a formerly institutionalized elderly innkeeper steadily slides into psycho over the course of the following night. With patrons filling up the four dilapidated shacks of her secluded motel during a hellish thunderstorm (a fell tree blocks the only exit), the innkeeper begins cavorting about underfoot in an underground tunnel and entering their rooms armed with a sickle to appease the voices in her head.

Jim McCullough's Mountaintop Motel has several uncontrollable factors working to its detriment. First, this sleeper was woefully out-of-date by the trends of the very year of its inception. Michael had already stalked Haddonfield, Jason had been revealed as a sac-headed momma's boy, Canada's greatest export next to hockey was the slasher, and Freddy was preparing to exact revenge upon Elm Street's children. No wonder the film sat until New World Pictures picked it up for video distribution in 1986. These three years only widened the gap to the already extremely outmoded Mountaintop. Then New World affixed the word "Massacre" to the title which only alienated viewers expecting more slasher fare.

In truth, McCullough orchestrates a spooky yarn with a constant lingering score and catastrophic cinematography more at home with the hokum of the early '70s than its native hack n' slash decade. The acting varies and special attention must be paid to the first-and-only time performance of Major Brock. Brock plays Crewshaw, an old grizzled black handyman stopping in for the night. His character is immediately likeable and genuine to the point that when he describes what he does for a living, you have no choice but to believe his word as the honest truth. If one wanted to, Crewshaw could be described as a magical negro, but that seems crude. He has the most common sense and foresight of anyone in the situation; however, he's the only one you root for the survival of. The white protagonist, a slimeball posing as a record company exec trying to get into an aspiring female duet's pants, is attempted (and failed) to be made into the hero of the picture. Brock's also given all the funny quips, "Stay here and get my ass killed by some crazy old white woman?!"

I'm not going to say Mountaintop Motel is for everyone as it took two viewing attempts aborted by sleep to finally get through it. You need to be in the right mindset, but I'm unsure what mindset that would be. Certainly not the one I imagine many that cast the film off to the trash heap watched it under. If this one happens to end up in your VCR one night, you could do much worse (try pairing it up with Bob Clark's Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things) ...


Jayson Kennedy said...

BTW, the girl on the bottom left of the back cover (next to Brock as Crewshaw) is a totally unrecognizable Amy Hill.

Anonymous said...

The film's full title is "MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE",somebody goofed somewhere,lol. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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