It is about time I got back to (God)Awful Movies, the segment of the blog dedicated to the worst of religious cinema.
Today’s feature, “Escape From Hell,” is one that I have come across a couple of times in bargain bins in the deep south. I’m not sure how far it actually got distributed, but I’ve certainly never seen it outside of Alabama or Georgia. Here’s what my copy looks like:
I’m sure glad to know that I got the special edition! Hopefully that means there is some CGI Jabba the Hutt to enjoy.
The reason that I initially picked this up, apart from the title and the cover art, is because of the amazing blurbs on the back of this box. Here are a couple of them, including two from noted film critics Jerry Falwell and televangelist Jack Van Impe:
Well, I’m sold. I can’t wait to see if this film makes me think about my “life without Christ.”
Out of curiosity, I decided to dig around to see if there is a trailer out there for this thing. I ultimately dug one up, but, to my joy, I found something even better as well: a clip collection, courtesy of the fantastic folks over at Everything is Terrible!
Now I am definitely psyched. Here is the trailer I dug up as well, in case you happen to be curious:
Director Danny Carrales and writer Michael Martin have apparently worked together on a number of Christian features outside of “Escape to Hell,” including films called “The Gathering” and “Second Glance.” Star Daniel Kruse pops up in “The Gathering,” as well as another movie that Carrales and Martin worked on called “Pilgrim’s Promise.” One of the other actors in “Escape to Hell,” Terry Jernigan, has managed to appear in an assortment of bit film roles over the years, but my favorite credit of his is on an upcoming movie called “Sasquatch vs. Yeti.” You can bet that I am looking that one up.
I think that the biggest red flag for me when sifting through the IMDb entry far “Escape to Hell” was finding someone credited as “2D/3D animation and effects / special effects supervisor.” That can’t spell out anything good for this movie. Also, the person with that credit has nothing else current listed to their name outside of another Carrales/Martin feature (“Pilgrim’s Progress”).
My next favorite credit on this movie is one of the producers, Randy Smith, who is apparently a professional boom operator who has worked on an assortment of actually good movies (“12 Monkeys,” “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Phone Booth”) and occasionally not-so-good movies (“Thinner,” “The Langoliers”).
Now, let’s see how this thing is. Will it scare me into the arms of Jesus? Will I be forced to reassess all my sinful life choices? Will I be able to even stay awake through this whole thing? Let’s find out!
Wow, this is really awful. I’m not really sure where to start.
The cinematography is awful in nearly every way you can imagine. Some of the shots are nothing short of nauseating for no reason whatsoever (just people walking down a hallway, for instance). There are so many dutch angles that you will question if your head is even on straight. When the camera is being used half-sensibly, everything feels like an infomercial, or a soap opera at best. Unfortunately, even those moments are few and far between.
The acting is about what you would expect: most of them seem like they are reading directly off of the scripts. In the few cases where that isn’t the case, they either hilariously overact, or sound like they are giving half-rate sermons. Of course, a lot of that blame deserves to be leveled at the writing as well, which is more heavy-handed than a steel gauntlet.
It turns out that my nervousness about that “2D/3D animation and effects / special effects supervisor” was more than justified. There is way more reliance on special effects than there should be in this flick, and they look really bad. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t look good when they were done originally in 2000, and they certainly don’t look good 15 years down the line. I’d bet that they could have pulled off better practical effects with the money they spent on the CG here, and wound up with something way more convincing (the few moments that do involve practical effects in this movie do look passable). That at least would have looked like something realistic, whereas the CG here just looks downright laughable. Moments where characters are cast into hell are supposed to be intimidating and terrifying, but instead they are profoundly hilarious.
Overall, this isn’t a movie worth spending the time to sit through. For the most part, it is just boring dialogue between characters you just can’t give a damn about. I would recommend checking out the “Everything is Terrible” highlights (which has all of the best parts included), and just leaving it alone from there. This isn’t a film that is going to change your life, and it certainly isn’t going to send anyone running to Jesus who wasn’t on his team already.