In November, IDW has booked two comics creators a room in Motel Hell.
Best known as a horror/satire film, IDW is partnering with MGM films to take a new look at this thirty-year old classic. Published under the banner of “MGM Drive-In Theater”, the upcoming three-issue Motel Hell series takes a modern look at Vincent & Ida Smith, two insane farmers who maintain a hotel on their property are looking for a new crop of victims and find it in some vacationing wine snobs. While most farmers have a green thumb, for Vincent and Ida their digits always come up red.
With the first issue set to come out on October 6th, Newsarama talked with both the writer Matt Nixon and artist Chris Moreno about the comic, the movie and drive-in theatres.
Newsarama: This is a unique series. I remember the 80s horror flick Motel Hell; Matt, is this an adaptation of that or some sort of sequel?
Matt Nixon: You could say it’s like what would happen if we were asked to remake the film. There has to be some updating, you kind of have to recast it and decide on who and what stays. Fortunately, we have what I consider to be a much stronger medium in which to execute the idea.
Nrama: What is the story in the Motel Hell comic?
Nixon: We took the Hell part literally. Vincent plays the role of the Devil and Ida, his sister, is just as bad as his right hand demon. Chris and I created a cast of deserving victims based on analogs for a bunch of real world degenerates; a spoiled socialite, crooked bankers, an animal-abusing pro athlete, a celebuspawn… And then we dropped them smack dab in Hell. Moreno’s designs really came to life--just before we killed them all.
Nrama: Can you tell us more about the psycho siblings of Motel Hell, Vincent and Ida?
Chris Moreno: Vincent is like the grandfather none of us wish we had. He’s kind of a cross between Will Rogers and Hannibal Lecter, some bizarre mash-up of Hee Haw and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ida is his right hand man-lady. She’s fiercely loyal, extremely perverse, and yet she has a childlike zeal for the work she and Vincent are doing. As people, I should hate them, but as characters I loved drawing them because they offered me so many great expressions and body language.Nixon: We focus on them as literal, diabolical monsters. Ida gets a lot of great lines, and she does some of the most depraved stuff in the story. I thought of her like Annie Wilkes on female Viagra. Vincent was easy for me since he’s been haunting my dreams since I was 12. But I wanted to elevate Vincent to the level of say, Hannibal Lecter in the smarts department. Sorry, purists but the bear traps are way too Wile E. Coyote in the film. I like to think of him as having been pen pals with Charles Manson.
Nrama: People have heard of the Bates Motel, but perhaps not Motel Hell. Tell us – what would Motel Hell's listing on Hotels.com look like?
Nixon: [laughs]. That’s a great question!
Moreno: I think it’d be described as one’s final destination on any vacation. Nestled deep in the most remote regions of the Napa Valley, the hotel is located just minutes from the Middle of Nowhere. It would probably also urge guests to pack light.
Nixon: Hmm, I guess that place would never really get reviewed since most of the guests wind up continental breakfast. Sounds like a cracked.com Photoshop contest waiting to happen.
Nrama: What do you think are the big themes in this comic?
Nixon: Ah, themes, I love themes. Again, the whole Hell thing is a big deal here. It isn’t just a hellish experience. It’s freaking Hell. Torture, that’s a big one. Cannibalism, of course, but with a refining of what that behavior means. The vulgarity of the human condition as envisioned by Manson a la Dante. We did a lot with the pig heads, and the pig references are everywhere when it comes to the victims.
But also, resourcefulness and truth. For the final girl I naturally chose a tougher contemporary heroine. These days, women figure out how to save themselves and Holly is all the best of the best women I know. She has a warrior’s fearlessness and Moreno’s design makes her hot but somehow very serious.
Nrama: Have you been lucky enough to go to a midnight movie at a drive-in? If so, tell us about it.
Nixon: I wish, but I’m a little too young to have experience that because bucket seats and the VHS destroyed the drive-in.
Nrama: What about you, Chris?Moreno: Actually, I can vaguely remember the first movie I ever saw was at a drive-in. I was three and one of the features was Zorro, the Gay Blade. The first movie I saw in a theater was either Revenge of the Nerds or Conan the Destroyer. So I think that explains a lot about my storytelling approach if these were my formative movie-watching experiences.
Nrama: Can you tell us about your first acquaintance with the movie Motel Hell and what you thought of it?
Nixon: I was a kid, about 12 years old, and I saw it at my brother’s girlfriend’s house. She had a brother about my age and we cued up Motel Hell on the basement VHS while my brother was somewhere upstairs necking. Now, I should point out that these people lived on; you guessed it, a farm. I wound up calling my mom to come get me because I couldn’t find my brother and I was terrified by the first five minutes of the movie. Like, I’m surprised my hair didn’t turn white kind of scared. I guess now I get why my brother never took me anywhere after that. I think he got in some trouble over the whole thing. But if you ask anyone who has seen this movie, they have some kind of personal story about it. It is just that important.
Moreno: As a kid, I wasn't really allowed to watch a lot of horror movies, which I think fueled my interest in them even more. But the Moreno family were avid video renters, so we were making trips to the video store weekly, where I was confronted with the wildly bizarre and imaginative posters for the latest horror releases. The poster for Evil Dead II depicting a skull with the eyeballs still in the sockets greeted me every time I walked up to the store, arousing my curiosity about the movie even more!
But Motel Hell's cover -- Vincent and Ida standing side-by-side (American Gothic-style) over the planted bodies of their victims (to my young eyes they looked like decapitated heads!) had me freaked. It was one of those movies, though, that faded towards the back of my consciousness -- one of those movies that I was aware of but hadn’t remembered to track down to finally see it. But I tracked it down after I got the gig, and it’s like I’d been a fan all my life! It's scary and funny and totally absurd! I mean, it’s about cannibals with chainsaws and pig heads -- what’s not to love!
Nrama: You've been out of the comics’ scene for some time, Matt. What brought you back in, and back in for this project?Nixon: I felt the urge to get back into comics about a year ago, and I knew that I wanted to work with IDW because they have many great properties. I like to do licensed stuff, and IDW gives their creators a real chance to take ownership of a given property. That’s very appealing because nobody wants to create with their hands tied. IDW was willing to let me do almost anything. After I successfully pitched Motel Hell they actually encouraged me to go off my nut.
Nrama: Chris, Matt says you've done the work of your career with this, and the pages show it. What made this a project you want to do, and put so much time into the pages?
Moreno: Aw, what a sweetheart! There are a lot of factors that help me choose projects-- rent and food being among the primary ones! But I had received a call from editor Bob Schreck after sending him some of the things I had been working on, and he asked if I wanted to do Motel Hell. We share a love of cult horror flicks and knew that the title would be right up my alley in terms of a mix of laughs and scares, so naturally I was delighted to begin as soon as possible. Then I got Matt’s script and knew doubly so that I was gonna have a blast!
Nrama: What other movies would you like to see, and perhaps due, in IDW's MGM Drive-In Theater banner?
Moreno: That question makes my movie-filled brain immediately melt down. You know how back in the day you had a billion CDs you wanted to buy, but didn’t make an actual list, so when you finally got to the record store you’d draw a blank? As far as titles, the sky’s the limit! Though, for obvious reasons, it should probably be restricted to properties MGM owns.
Nixon: There are hundreds of movies that could be handled like this, and the way MGM seems to be righting the ship, we may get the chance to do more!