Mountaintop Motel Massacre

Part Tourist Trap, part Psycho, Mountaintop Motel Massacre lacks the charm of the former and the direction of latter.

We’re in small-town Louisiana at some roadside dumpy motel (the kind that “steal your towels” according to the late, great Rodney Dangerfield).

Our antagonist, Evelyn, is released from a looney-bin and returns to her place of business. When she finds her daughter practicing witchcraft in the basement of their nearby house (this involves having a rabbit and a goat as dining companions for some as yet unperformed ritual) Evelyn the sicko sickles her to death.

Bayou cops quickly descend, but as quickly as they turn up, they bail, satisfied by Evelyn’s explanation that her daughter died in a bizarre gardening accident (a la one of the numerous early-demise mishaps suffered by Spinal Tap’s various time-keepers). Slipping and falling on a sharp gardening implement doesn’t seem worthy of a coroner report, but what do we know? We’re not carrying a badge.

Evelyn is soon back in business Norman Bates-style (actually, this one is a bit similar to the unheralded, but more than competent Psycho sequel). And gruesome Procrustean innkeepers need victims, right? And what better way to ensure there’s a steady stream than one of the hoariest cliches in all of movie-making: the downed tree blocking the road! (sure, pedants may quibble that the road being washed out by a flash flood is close competition).

Either way, a disparate patron demographic show up to the motel in question with no way to leave, and thunder-claps aplenty. The cast of characters includes: an old black carpenter, a drunk preacher who resembles a bloated William Conrad (Cannon/Gunsmoke), a Memphis ad-man/con-man, a couple of White Trash honeymooners, and two wanna-be country warblers in tight jeans whose bug broke down.

Evelyn begins to take them out, Ten Little Indians style, hiding in a crawlspace and using various creepy-crawlers from around the premises, snakes, rats, roaches (the latter at least thematically on-point for a motel) to torment her tenants. There’s also a bizarre subplot about two of the girls auditioning for the ad-man, who later admits he’s not really a Columbia Records exec and that it was part of a ruse to get one (or both) of the girls in the sack. Unfortunately, we’re witness to the girls’ singing a few frames in, and let’s just say they couldn’t carry a tune even in zero-gravity.

Plodding and idiotic, Mountaintop Motel Massacre nonetheless features 10 minutes of solid atmosphere and it should be said a pretty whiz-bang soundtrack. But what about the other 80 minutes?

Trusty viewers/readers, lead-foot it to a Motel 6 instead, where at least they’ll leave a light on for you (much of this one is shrouded in murky darkness).

** (out of 5)

[Listen to our discussion of Mountaintop Motel Massacre on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

The Night Before

“This is the kind of movie that’s so bad, you gotta tell someone about it.” Can’t take credit for that, as it was my viewing companion, but she’s dead-on. The Night Before is a putative Christmas comedy that’s putrid in execution and puts the rank in rank amateur.

Three stoner dramatis personae have a tradition, as mindless as whoever concocted this as a plot device: to hang out and get blotto together on Christmas (and also to try and seek passage to an exclusive party, The Nutcrackers Ball).

Their leader is soon-to-be-dad Isaac (a frumpy-dump Seth Rogan), so if this is a Hero’s Journey, this is more of the sandwich variety. Milking the lazy stupefied Peter Pan-t-load mien he’s come to adopt in just about everything, Rogan’s Isaac is terrified at the prospect of growing up and pending fatherhood. His wife, sensing this, enables Isaac in a kind of last night of freedom: giving him a container full of pharmaceuticals so he and his pals can cut loose Hangover-style, minus the charm, direction or the comic timing.

That an 8 month-along mom-to-be would do something that stupid beggars belief, but even dumber, that her “rock,” (“Like Dwayne Johnson”, she ‘jokes’. Seinfeld eat your heart out) would actually indulge….well, that’s the set up, for a movie that’s so tonally off, it needs a tuning fork, and is about as enjoyable as a set of cymbals clanged upside your noggin.

The usually reliable Joseph Gordon Levitt (Ethan) cuts a wan, labored Kevin Spacey figure as a loser who’s still hung up on an ex years later and resorts to side hustle work as a Santa elf (he’s even the butt of a joke: “a 33-year old elf?” In terms of age-inappropriate behavior, though, he gets off easy)

And to round out the idiot triumvirate (the name “Three Stooges” is already taken) is Chris (Anthony Mackie), a star NFLer, who — and kudos here for the realism — is suddenly a breakout star due to banned substances.

The Night Before features repugnant bathroom sex, steroid abuse, dick pics, a nose-bleed into a Martini, projectile vomiting during midnight mass, and a host of indignities too numerous to be unaccompanied by even the slimmest shred of wit or joy. And also James Franco and Miley Cyrus. The state rests, your honor.

As willfully ugly as a Christmas sweater, and as actively repellent as any comedy ever made.

* (out of 5)