Evangelical silliness about a subject that if you ask me should be far more widely covered in Christian cinema: Hell. Then again, the horrendous special effects on display in this shot-on-video goof conclusively demonstrate why more films aren’t made about the inferno.
ESCAPE FROM HELL was released to VHS and DVD in 2001 by the evangelical outfit DRC Films (whose other offerings include THE GATHERING, apparently a “powerful portrayal of Christ’s return and the coming tribulation,” and PILGRIM’S PROGRESS: JOURNEY TO HEAVEN, a “modern retelling of John Bunyan’s classic beloved tale”). That it never attained the success of late nineties evangelical productions like THE OMEGA CODE and APOCALYPSE isn’t hard to figure out—quite simply, it’s boring, being taken up largely with the struggles of a doctor to come to terms with the possible reality of Hell. The actual trip to Hell teased by the DVD art and back cover synopsis only occurs in the final twenty minutes, and hardly lives up to the “action-packed drama with spectacular special effects” that was promised.
It opens with a dedication to “The glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” and a Biblical quotation (from Matthew 13:50-51): “So shall it be at the end of the world; the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” That quote doesn’t exactly jibe with what happens in the film, but anyway…
One Dr. Eric Robinson is dying. He’s brought back to life by his medical colleagues, and then promptly flees the hospital. He steals an ambulance and drives to a church, where he regales the minister with the story of how he came to die, and what happened when he did.
It seems Eric was dissatisfied with his life as a doctor: “I knew I was running, and running scared.” He’s particularly upset about his drunken asshole father who’s become a born-again Christian, refusing to accept that the old man has changed. One day he gets into an argument with a Reverend about Hell; Eric can’t understand why a loving God would sentence anyone to an eternity in Hell.
Eric’s father passes on and Eric has a nightmare that he sees his father burning in Hell, apparently due to the fact that Eric never forgave him. He becomes so obsessed with disproving the existence of Hell he decides to induce a near-death experience on himself. Specifically, Eric injects himself with a lethal dosage of dangerous chemicals in the boiler room of his hospital, with a friend on call to bring him back to life.
Upon dying Eric first travels to Heaven, depicted as a landscape of digitally-enhanced floral scenery. He’s only there briefly before being plunged through a flaming tunnel into Hell, where he sees a dude with insects crawling under his skin (because “all those times I should have been paying attention to the sermons I was paying attention to Leslie Wilson in the third pew”). The latter, however, turns out to be none other than Satan himself, who’s looking to tempt “you stupid humans!”
The filmmaking here is reasonably competent, but offset by the trashy production values, inept performances, horrendous CGI and shitty electronic music that plays nearly continuously. There is, however, one saving grace: the pic is only 78 minutes long.
ESCAPE FROM HELL
Director: Danny R. Carrales
Producers: Danny R. Carrales, Randy Smith
Screenplay: Michael Martin
Cinematography: James Burgess
Editing: Danny R. Carrales
Cast: Dan Kruse, Emilie Jo Tisdale, Terry Jernigan, Paul Stober, Greg Provance, Lauren Edwards, Bob Lauro, Julie Jenny, Lori Stober, Robert Seymone, Don Brooks, Cody Wilson, Tony Quaranta, Darlene Fidity, Lisa Dunne