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Review: Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986)

Reviewer: Tim Sweetland


When I was a kid, Mountaintop Motel Massacre (dir: Jim McCullough, Sr.) always caught my eye at the video store with its great cover and adline: "Please do not disturb Evelyn, She Already Is." The video box featured this totally insane looking woman peering from behind a door surrounded by bloody handprints. Much to my chagrin, the woman on the video box didn't appear in the film, but Mountaintop Motel Massacre still managed to be slightly better than the normal 1980's stalk and slash fare.

Evelyn has recently completed a three year stint in a psychiatric facility. She returns home to her quiet life as proprietor of the Mountaintop Motel, a run down collection of bungalows just off a major highway. After an "accident" disposes of her occult-dabbling daughter (who also doesn't appear quite right in the head) Evelyn completely loses it. Just around the time of Evelyn's breakdown, a bad rain storm hits the area and the motel gets a whole bunch of patrons, including an alcoholic preacher, a wise old carpenter, a newly married couple (who apparently couldn't afford much for a honeymoon, to say the least) and a businessman posing as a record executive, accompanied by two nubile co-eds (who, of course, got stuck in the rain wearing white t-shirts and no bras). Unbeknownst to the motel guests, an underground tunnel allows Evelyn to access all of the motel's rooms through trap-doors in the floors, and she engages in mischief such as placing rattlesnakes, roaches, and rats in the guests' rooms. Why there is a supply of such things on hand, I can't say, but it seems the aforementioned occultish daughter had quite a collection.

This goes on for about an hour, and I have to admit, I was getting kind of tired of Evelyn's pranks. While the sight of rats, roaches and snakes crawling on sleeping motel guests certainly made me cringe, it hardly constitutes a "massacre." Not to worry though, Evelyn's intentions get more malicious, and she eventually gets to massacrin' with her trusty sickle, and makes quick work of nearly everyone before she is eventually stopped in spectacular fashion.

Mountaintop Motel Massacre boasts some splashy murders and eerie set-pieces. The daughter's connection to the occult is never explained, but it helps to add a feeling of unease and creepiness to the proceedings that would have otherwise been missing. There are a few scenes where the late daughter appears to be walking around the property, and the viewer is not quite sure whether we're seeing a ghost or a figment of Evelyn's demented imagination. Either way, it provides the film with a nice supernatural vibe.

The film is different than most slashers in that we know who the killer is immediately, and we know her motive. All that is left to do is sit back and wait to see who's next to go, and who will survive the night. This ain't no Halloween, but it's entertaining and definitely a step above your average guy-in-mask-kills-teenagers-in-the-woods flick.



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