Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do. On this installment, we’ll be taking a look at the Motel Hell remake that almost was.
Motel Hell is one of the most surprisingly inventive, fun, backwoods slashers of the early ‘80s. It has almost nothing to do with the actual motel, instead focusing on motel owner, Farmer Vincent—along with his sister, Ida—and their famed smoked meats that are actually made from human flesh. The movie is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the meat industry as a whole, with the victims largely being subjected to the same treatment as cattle. Despite the recognizable pig mask iconography, Motel Hell never saw any kind of sequel.
But during the height of remake fever in the mid-2000s, talks began of the potential for a Motel Hell remake. Picking up the project would be none other than Twisted Pictures, the company that owned the box office at the time thanks to their success with the Saw series. Ironically, the Saw franchise features its own iconic pig mask and one has to wonder if there was ever a concern that it would look like the studio was copying themselves.
Originally, MGM wanted to fast track the feature for a December 2007 release. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out and it was rescheduled for Halloween 2008 instead.
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Automaton Transfusion director Steven C. Miller, who would later go on to direct the Silent Night, Deadly Night remake, among many other projects, was hired to helm the feature. Things didn’t only seem like they were moving on this project, it felt like they were skyrocketing. MGM wanted this remake to get made and they wanted it to happen quickly.
But just like that, MGM quietly removed Motel Hell from the schedule when it became clear that it was not going to meet that date. For a while, there was no word at all on what might become of it.
Eventually, Twisted Pictures’ Mark Burg came forward on what happened with the film. In an interview with Comingsoon.net, he said, “We were going to do it and we couldn’t come up with a script we liked… I’m not going to make a movie just to make a movie. We had a couple of drafts and none of them are good enough – so why do it?”
Weirdly enough, Motel Hell actually seems like one of the movies that would have made sense for the era. And on that level it’s a surprise that it never got made. It has the backwoods roadside aesthetic that so many remakes adopted post-Texas Chainsaw Massacre. From Hills Have Eyes to Last House on the Left—even House of Wax reimagined itself to fit that mold.
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It makes much more sense for a mid-late 2000s remake than Sorority Row or April Fool’s Day. This absolutely seems like one of the first remakes we should have seen after the success of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so I completely get why MGM and Twisted Pictures were so focused on getting it made for a time.
It’s surprising for a remake like this to fall through simply because no one could crack the script, but it’s important to remember that the key detail here is that no one could crack the script in time. The studio wanted the film to hit theaters the same year that it was announced and that’s not a lot of time to come up with an inventive new take, even on a project like this one.
Still, there have been plenty of times that studios have rushed a movie into production without even being happy with the script, so I suppose we should breathe a sigh of relief for that. At the end of the day, it’s better to have no Motel Hell remake than a terrible one.