Last July, we first received word that there was a three-part comic book remake of “Motel Hell” in the making that was going to be released by IDW Publishing. The first issue came out in October as part of their MGM Drive-In Theater Series. So naturally, we jumped on the chance to speak with the writer, Matt Nixon. What came of it you ask? Well, to put it simply, an interview, murder, and a fat lady in a dominatrix outfit. (Luckily, the last two have to do with the story, not me.)
Johnny_Trouble: Hey Matt, thanks for taking some time to talk to us here at BD about the first installment of “Motel Hell”. Back in July we received the news that this 3-issue comic series was being released. You have written the series as an updated remake of the “Motel Hell” story. This being said, what inspired you to remake the story?
Matt Nixon: First, let me say thank you for the attention BD is paying to this project. I am very pleased that a hardcore horror site like this noticed the solicitations before any of the comic book sites. I’m a comic book writer but I worked very hard to please the horror fans and fans of the movie in particular.
Remakes or updates, as I thought of this project, are going to happen. They happen all the time, and far too often they suck. If you’re a creator who loves the source material and you have a chance to be the guy engineering the update, it feels like a chance to be certain that a piece of art that you value isn’t raped by some hack that’s looking for a paycheck and a feather in his cap. I think remakes usually wind up garbage because the guy behind it didn’t LOVE the source material.
But I don’t like to think of this comic book series as a remake. I couldn’t pretend to remake “Motel Hell”. Kevin Connor made something special and unique that will continue to stand the test of time. It’s more like a thumbnail of what the movie could be if someone applied updated storytelling techniques and excised most of the things that date and pigeonhole the movie as old.
Johnny_Trouble: What would you say is the biggest deviation from the original 1980’s film?
Matt Nixon: Focus. Vincent and Ida are more focused on what they’re doing. The plot is also more focused and there is more logic to the structure. It’s less of the chaotic, campy and seemingly random romp that was the film.
Johnny_Trouble: The characters you have created in the comic seem to have a lot more force and attitude behind them than they did in the movie, which is something I appreciate. You have definitely increased the level of how openly crazy Vincent and Ida Smith are, and made it clear immediately. Ida seems to be the more aggressive one with the murders and a lot less guided by Vincent, while Vincent also comes off as far more volatile. What was the reason for these character changes?
Matt Nixon: It has more to do with the difference in mediums than anything else. It’s a strength of comic books that you can afford to go over the top with your villains. The negative is that I don’t have the first twenty minutes of a two-hour film to do a lot of build-up. Had to just go for it right out of the gate. Subsequently, the Smiths are less like spiders waiting to trap victims in their web, and more like hunters culling the sick and the weak from the human herd. At least that’s where their pig heads are at as far as I’m concerned. Today’s psychopaths need to be more proactive.
Johnny_Trouble: The way you wrote Holly as a character in the first issue of the comic makes her out to be a stronger and less naïve person than Terry’s character is in the movie. So I am hesitant to compare the two. Are we going to see more similarities between the characters later on or is the updated remake going to maintain a large distinction between the two?
Matt Nixon: Night and day. I mean, naïve is being very kind to Terry. Women don’t behave like that anymore, if they ever really did. I made their names similar but Holly couldn’t be any more different as the final girl. That will be very clear by the time this whole thing is over.
Johnny_Trouble: The other guests that surround Holly during her trip to wine country are all sleazy, to put it lightly. They seem like stereotypes of wealthy people that are frequently in the news for various negative reasons. Dare I ask if the individual guests were based on any specific individuals? (Not counting the dog named Justin Bieber of course.)
Matt Nixon: Yeah, I didn’t have to look too far to find a bunch of swine fit for the slaughter. Being satire I could probably spell out who they represent, but I don’t need to, they’re that thinly veiled. Stereotypes are useful when you only have three issues to tell the story. It helps to lean on the zeitgeist as a way to let the reader fill-in some of the back story on these unsavory characters.
Johnny_Trouble: When I was preparing for this interview I read the comic and then watched the movie afterward for comparison. Let me just say, I was greatly relieved that we never saw Nancy Parsons, who played Ida, wear a dominatrix outfit during a movie. Which leads me to my next question. On page 3, Ida is wearing in some BDSM outfit and the pig mask while she sinks a butcher knife into some poor fool’s head. Can you give an explanation of where that came from, or is there one?
Matt Nixon: Shock. I wanted to have a very shocking image on page 3 so that people picking this up, just at a glance, can see that I am serious. The movie shocked people. This series will shock people. I wanted her totally naked, big pendulous breasts flopping in the breeze, but MGM would have none of that. I think the outfit was a compromise.
Johnny_Trouble: In the comic, you intermingle the new and old storylines. For example, the twins getting frightened happens in the comic as well as the movie, however for different reasons. Can we expect a lot of associations to the movie like this?
Matt Nixon: Yes, I am very conscious of doing those call backs because a lot of the movie was pure genius. You don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. That particular scene was a favorite of mine in the film. To this day I laugh my ass off whenever I see it. It was the first thing I wanted to work directly into this story. Man, Rory Calhoun could be a scary dude.
Johnny_Trouble: Will we be introduced to Bruce Smith in the next issue?
Matt Nixon: Kind of… There’s an analog, with a different name, like I did with Holly. And he’s a much different character as well. The small town sheriff thing is one stereotype I’d like to avoid at this point. Our guy is called in to investigate the plane crash that happened at the end of Issue #1. He’s a Fed, and presumably a more formidable foe for the Smiths.
Johnny_Trouble: Lastly, when can we expect the next issue of “Motel Hell” to come out?
Matt Nixon: Should be out in the second week of November. I’d recommend readers do a pre-order on this because I’ve heard that many comic book shops have sold out of Issue #1 already. They can check out my blog or follow @mattnixon on the Twitter for updates.
I would like to give a special thanks to Matt Nixon for taking the time to give us an interview. Keep an eye out for the second issue of the “Motel Hell” series that will be coming out within the next week or two.
Here is a link to a preview of the first issue.
And if you would like to order a copy, here is the link for that.
Remember kids, “meat is murder.”