Monthly Archives: April 2012

Escape from Hell, Part 3

Well, Eric is dealing with the death of his abandoning, manipulative, newly-Christian father as well as might be expected.

He is having horrible nightmares.

THANKS A LOT, Hospital Reverend, for dispensing your Hell-talk wherever you go.

Nightmare-Dad manages to lay a guilt-trip on Eric, even from beyond the grave:

“Oh no!  Eric!  Why didn’t you forgive me?!  Now I’m burning, forever burning!”

So, that’s nice.

This is your dad.

This is your dad in Hell.  Any questions?

It’s a pretty sucky nightmare, and Eric wakes up in a sweat and has to run to the bathroom to throw up.

(A common reaction to Christian films.)

As to the substance of the nightmare, I can only assume that it is meant to portray Eric’s ignorance about Hell—the idea being that he is misunderstanding the nature of Christian forgiveness.  Dad is in Heaven because he got Jesus’s forgiveness; his son’s forgiveness has nothing to do with anything.  (Shocker.)

Regardless, Eric’s existential crisis leads him right back to Marissa’s office, where he seeks reassurance that everyone goes to a peaceful place when they die.

Marissa is forced to disabuse him of this notion.  (By the way, Marissa seems a bit cool to Eric in this scene.  I’m tempted to interpret that as her being miffed that Eric has started expressing a lot more interest in her work than in her.)

She shows Eric another video, this time of a cute blonde woman who almost drowned.  Unlike the blind woman, Blondie didn’t see any skinny angels:

“Then  I started to feel like I was burning.  And I was so scared.  I said, ‘God, please help me, please, please.’  But [malevolent beings] just kept laughing at me, telling me that, ‘There’s no one here to help you now.'”

So, she believes in God, but she still went to Hell.

That’s what you get, Blondie, for not being Christian ENUF.

Marissa tells Eric that she has had other “non-positive” NDE testimonials like this, and Eric’s reaction is intelligent and reasonable (and thus, of course, will prove to be OH SO VERY WRONG):

“This pretty much explains the cultural impact of afterlife pathology.  Where you go after death depends on what your belief systems are in life.  You create your own Heaven, or you create your own Hell.”

And Marissa COMPLETELY AGREES WITH HIM.

Wow, Tom Douten may have some competition from this duo for Most Likeable non-RTC in a Christian Work.

Eric goes for a hike.  I use the word “hike” with caution, because Eric scurries through the forest as though a Jason Voorhees is chasing him.

He finally chills when he gets to a rocky outcropping overlooking a river.

For reasons best known to himself, Eric removes his watch, a bracelet of wooden beads, and his wild sunglasses that fold up ALL THE WAY, and lays them all on the ground while he contemplates his anti-depression meds.

Hilariously, Eric has only one pill bottle, in which he has squirreled away no less than five different KINDS of pills.  These he considers for a moment before flinging them off the ledge into the woods, and speaking of squirrels, at least THEY will not be depressed.

Eric starts to cry.  I must say that for a Christian film, which usually stick to VERY strict gender roles, we’ve seen our male hero cry a helluva lot more than any female character.  I’d chalk that up to progress were it not for the fact that it is just meant to be Eric experiencing the sadness that all non-Christians feel all the time.

Except…Eric is VERY CLEARLY depressed.  And on top of it all, he would probably be situationally depressed anyway, due to all the shit with his dad showing up in his life, laying guilt trips on him, then promptly dying.  Medication and some good therapy really DO seem like the correct responses here, not just an altar call.

Eric floats his FANTASTIC IDEA to Marissa: induce a near-death experience, don’t just wait for one to happen.  Marissa is a little bit shocked (understandably), since doing that would be INCREDIBLY unethical, but is even more upset when Eric reveals that HE means to be the guinea pig.

“…I have nothing to lose [by being the guinea pig].”

“You need to see a psychiatrist.”

“I thought I was.”

“Eric, I’m not your therapist, and I can’t do anything more for you than I already have.”

“Are you dumping me?”

“No.  Terms like ‘dump’ suggest dating and we–  It’s just that with everything you’ve been going through right now, the last thing you need is a relationship.”

“You’re right. *very long pause*  Bad idea.”

I…kinda love this scene.  It’s real, as though everyone forgot for a moment about THE MESSAGE and just let the characters tell a story.  Marissa is sad and sorry to say that, but she doesn’t want to be Eric’s doctor, she wants to be his girlfriend.  And Eric is hurt…obviously very hurt…but his problems are overwhelming him to such an extent that he can’t really be a boyfriend, even though he wants to…

Okay, I just clicked Actually Not That Bad.

And of course, Eric doesn’t really think it’s a bad idea.  Musing that “I just needed to end the pain…I just needed to know where my father was…” he prepares for his own near-death experience.

First, he goes to his mom’s house.  He pretends he’s just there to bow out of their weekly dinner because he’s too busy at work, but really he’s there to say goodbye, just in case.  But Mom is wise to this:

“So, why do you have that funny look in your eye?  It’s that same look that you had when you came by to tell me you were going to the Himalayas to climb Mt. McKinley or whatever it was.”

“Everest, Mom.”

I love the look Eric gives his mom: Really, Mom, you don’t know the difference between Everest and McKinley?

Also, ERIC CLIMBED MT. EVEREST WUT???

DAMN, he just becomes cooler all the time!

Eric also slips the wooden bead bracelet onto his mother’s wrist.

Which might mean something if we knew why the bracelet is special to Eric, but we don’t.

Eric then heads back to the beginning of the film, where he sets up the boiler room so that he can make himself Mostly Dead, then be brought back be Carl before he becomes All Dead.

Next time: Eric heads to Hell.

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Escape from Hell, Part 2

Eric drives off, leaving his father in the dust.  I know Eric will pay dearly for not honoring his father, but YOU GO, ERIC.

Oh, he goes…to his mom’s house.

“You’ll never guess who I ran into tonight”

“Your father.”

“How did you know?”

“Because he was here a couple of weeks ago asking about you, and he said he needed to see you.”

“And you told him where I was?”

“Yes, I did.”

Oh, well I can see why you would…

Wait, WUT???

So you just told the guy who abandoned your son where your son WORKED, and it didn’t even cross your mind to ASK IF THIS WAS OKAY WITH YOUR SON???

And this happened WEEKS AGO????

Lady, you suck.

Yep, that’s right—sadly for Eric, his mom is a Christian, which means that she has blithely accepted her ex-husband back into her life, AND revealed the workplace of their son.

Yanno, there are plenty of people in the world who wouldn’t want their parents stalking their places of employment even if said parents aren’t abusive alcoholics.

Eric is understandably miffed, and reminds Mom of “what he did to you…what he did to us,” and Mom doesn’t deny this.  Indeed, Dad drove her into bankruptcy.

The beauty part is, Mom has since married a guy who helped her out of that situation, and Mom (and presumably Step-Dad) now live in a very nice house.  Step-Dad sounds like an awesome guy, especially since it is implied (though not stated outright) that he helped put Eric through college and medical school.  Sadly, we never meet this dude, perhaps because he might not be so keen on his wife having much contact with the newly-reformed ex.

Eric, no fool, zeroes in on the crux of the matter: Mom is a Christian, Dad is a manipulative jerk, all he has to do is say he’s a Christian and Mom will buy it.  Eric makes a damn fine point here, but of course, Mom knows that this time it’s “different.”

Eric protests some more, and Mom starts to get angry with him.  Huh, it’s almost as though Eric and his mom had a great relationship before his manipulative, abusive jerk of a father re-entered the picture, and now he’s pitting them against each other and they’re letting him do it, because he’s an ass who ruins everything he touches.

Almost.

Because he’s a Christian, and that would never happen when a Christian is involved.

“I had to stop and remind myself every five minutes that God has forgiven him, and I have to find the grace to forgive him, too.”

Grammar Nazi: I just got whiplash from those tense changes.

Hey, if that’s what you want to do, then fine.  But isn’t it funny, lady, how you didn’t find it in your heart to forgive him when he was a heathen, but you do now that he shares your religion?

Funny, that.

Eric, still fuming, just shakes his head and leaves.

Um, YEAH.  Mom owes him a huge apology for revealing his whereabouts to Dad and NOT EVEN WARNING HIM.  Seriously, what is wrong with this woman???

Yanno, it occurs to me, as I sit here nomming my half-price chocolate cross, that atheists will never be able to give religion a worse name than actual religious people do, at least while they’re making decisions like that.

We cut to Marissa meeting with Garrison.  She tells him about her near-death experience research and wants to ask him about it, but Garrison pleads that he doesn’t feel well.  (Indeed, he can barely speak.)  But Marissa will not be dissuaded by the heart patient who just wants to be left alone to rest:

“Mr. Garrison, I believe your experience can help a lot of people face the next life.”

Ah, good thing she’s impartial and also that she doesn’t want to inconvenience terminally ill patients, isn’t it?

Garrison pleads off again, and Marissa very reluctantly leaves him the frak ALONE.

DAMN these selfish patients, always delaying her research.  Ooooo, I’m tired, I’m in pain, I just want to spend time with my family…they never stop whining, do they?

Apparently, Marissa’s job is grief counselor, because Carl and Eric inform Mrs. Garrison that her husband won’t survive the wait for a transplant, and they leave her to Marissa’s huggy care.  (Um, some people aren’t huggers (at least not with strangers), Marissa.  Just sayin’.)

Later, Carl is in a damn fine mood because he just got paid and also none of his patients have died recently, so he tries to set up Eric with Marissa.

Eric asks her to lunch, Marissa doubles down and turns it into a dinner date, and the exchange is actually not painful at all.  I like it because the simply exchange just seems more like what reasonable adults usually do:

“Wanna go out?”

“Yes, I would.”

Yanno, like that.  It’s not always wacky and complicated.

Later that evening, we see that Eric lives in a cute little farmhouse.  As he’s freshening up for dinner, there is a knock at the door.

IT’S HIS FATHER BECAUSE I GUESS IT WASN’T ENOUGH FOR MOM TO REVEAL WHERE ERIC WORKS, SHE ALSO HAD TO TELL DAD WHERE ERIC LIVES.  GAH!!!

Eric tries to slam the door in Dad’s face, and Dad stops him.  (Jerk!)

“Please don’t shut the door in my face.”

“Then you may want to stand back a couple of feet.”

NATHAN FILLION. NEVER CHANGE.

THAT WAS AWESOME!

Unfortunately, the movie will not allow heathen Eric to get the best of Good (New) Christian Dad, so Dad gets to plead his case.

Dad’s position on the issue of his reappearance in Eric’s life is just astonishing, so I’ll let him speak for himself:

“Look, this isn’t easy for me.  I know what I’ve done to you and your mother.  You don’t know how hard it is for me to come and face you.”

Huh.  Gee, Dad, it’s almost as if your entire focus is on your feelings and how hard this is for you and you know what I’m missing, here?

The words I AM SORRY or I KNOW HOW HARD THIS MUST BE FOR YOU

Eric’s response is priceless, and I only wish that I didn’t know that he will be shown to be so MEAN to his poor, innocent, abusive, abandoning dad:

“Is this some kind of apology tour?  Look, I’m not going to lend you my car or give you some money.  I’m not going to give you a place to sleep, so is there anything else you need?”

“Your forgiveness.”

“It’ll be a cold day in hell before that happens.”

Then ERIC says, “Sorry.”  He looks all sad and says he is sorry he can’t forgive his father.

WHAT ARE YOU SORRY FOR ERIC???  YOU DID NOTHING WRONG!!!

Dad wanders off and Eric finally gets to shut the door and he leans against it and cries and I actually feel bad for him.

I’m sure I feel worse for him than the movie does.  Cold-hearted unforgiving heathen.

It sucks for Eric that after all that, it’s time for his hot date with Marissa.

OH THANKS DAD FOR RUINING DATE NIGHT.  THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

And the bad news just keeps on piling up for Eric: all Marissa wants to do on their date is talk shop.  We discover that Marissa doesn’t believe in Hell, but does believe in Heaven, and just knows that people would fear death less and have an easier time with grief if they knew for a fact that Heaven was real.

You know, just like Christians always die peacefully, while other people have panic attacks.

(Seriously, she actually says this.)

(Major research fail.  I have seen non-Christians die, and with dignity and courage that I wish everyone could have.  Marissa needs to get out more.)

But at least she’s no RTC:

“I might not believe in Jesus, but I do believe in the power of faith.”

So, after a fancy dinner for two at a swank local bistro, they head off for a sexy night of fun and sexyness…

Or not.  They go to Marissa’s office.  Eric is newly-psyched by Marissa’s research, because he thinks it might help disprove Hospital Reverend’s ideas about Hell.  (The fact that Eric might also have some residual anger at both of his parents is not mentioned, but I’m kinda feeling that.)

That’s Marissa.  Question for the straight single guys out there: if you had a chance to hit that,
would you really choose instead to watch home movies of strangers sitting on couches and talking about the Sliders tunnel?

They watch a movie where a blind woman talks about her experience being hit by a truck and having a NDE.  She goes through the Sliders tunnel, an angel tells her that it is not yet her time, and she has to go back.  Eric is pretty suspicious of the whole thing until Marissa tells him that the woman has been blind since birth, and thus that she couldn’t possibly say that she saw anything in her NDE.

Eric remains unconvinced, pointing out (correctly) that this is all anecdotal and there is no control.  AND MARISSA AGREES.  But…

“Every researcher has her little secrets.”

Marissa’s secret, of course, is the sign on the hospital roof.

By the way, I’ve noticed something: angels in Christian movies SUCK.  Seriously, these guys are God’s chosen emissaries??

I am not impressed.

I suppose it’s a good thing that Eric and Marissa watched NDE videos instead of doing the horizontal rumba, because it would have been really awkward to wake up the next morning and have the snugglyness ruined by the news that Eric’s dad was found dead in his motel room.  (Sitting up in bed and reading his Bible, natch.  Because that is the only pasttime Christians have.)

Eric heads back to Marissa’s office for some grief counseling, and she tells him that he is grieving the loss of a relationship with his father, not just the loss of Dad.  Eric has a flashback within a flashback, and we see that Eric and Dad used to have a good relationship before Dad abandoned him and forced his ex-wife to declare bankruptcy.

Also, he had a bitchin’ pornstache:

And the bad news just keeps on coming: both Eric and Marissa are beeped to come to the deathbed of Garrison.

Marissa tells Mrs. Garrison that her husband is “struggling…holding on for your sake” and that she needs to tell him to go towards the light.

REALLY???  GEEZ, LADY, LAY OFF!!!

So she does, and little Lauren tells him that she will take care of her mom for him.  Which is super-sweet, though I have strong reservations about such a young child (Lauren is maybe ten or eleven) being there when her father dies.

Eric is openly crying, which is actually a nice bit of character development as he displaces his grief over his own father’s death onto the death of a good father whom he barely knows.

Garrison dies with a huge gasp and “uhhhh” which (again) I would think would be very upsetting to a child, but Lauren takes it in stride (“Bye, Daddy.”)

Garrison heads back into the Sliders tunnel, and he’s quite psyched until the fireballs start zooming past him.

Yep, despite being a loving and devoted husband and father, Garrison was NOT A CHRISTIAN, and thus careens down the tunnel INTO HELL TO BE TORTURED FOREVER.

“He’s at peace now.”

OH, IF ONLY YOU KNEW, MARISSA

Escape from Hell, Part 1

Escape from Hell memory:  I saw part of this movie years ago on vacation.  I was wired and staying up way too late and it was on a Christian station at about two in the morning (this is also how I saw my very first Christian movie, Pamela’s Prayer, btw).  I started watching right around the scene where the nice dad gets roasted.  (Spoiler!)

As with most Christian films, we begin with a Bible verse.  This time, it is the wailing and gnashing of teeth bit, Matthew 13: 50-51, natch.  Dour singers chant Gregorianly, and there are spooky pictures of people who are presumably hanging out in the bowels of Hell, screaming and shit.

We cut in and out to some doofus who looks like he’s on an operating table in a furnace room (wut?), and being worked over by two doctors.  For the sake of clarity, I will reveal their names now: the two doctors are Marissa and Carl, and the sad sack patient is their friend and fellow doctor, Eric Robinson.

I can only presume that Marissa is In Luv with Eric, because she’s crying (unless this is just a sign of her Womanly Sensitivity), while Carl is losing patience (ha!) with the patient and resorts to simply punching him in the chest.

Eric jerks back to life, and mutters something urgent to Marissa.  (It’s a good thing that this DVD has subtitles, because the sound quality suuuuucks and I would never have gotten it otherwise: it’s “Loose lips sink ships.”)  Carl gives Eric a nice shot of morphine, and rolls him back into the hospital.

Like so many movie hospitals, this one is extremely ill-lit.  Hell, out in the halls, I’m surprised anyone can see their hand in front of their face.

Now that Eric is in a real room and under sedation, Carl asks Marissa if she “put him up to this.”  She denies this, not without umbrage, and darts into the dim, dank hallway, then up some even darker stairs (safety first!) to the hospital’s roof, where she sees a diner sign with the words “Loose Lips Sink Ships” on it.  The sign is flat to the ground, though, such that you can only read it FROM ABOVE.

“He can see it!” breathes Marissa before running back into the hospital.

Ohhhhhh…

This is one of those wacky things where you give someone a “test” before a near-death experience, and if they pass, it means Jesus is real, right?

Right.

The morphine seems to have little to no effect on Doc Robinson, who wakes up AGAIN, dashes out of his hospital room and evades the hospital’s one security guy.

“YAH!” Eric cries as he exits the hospital, shoving over an empty wheelchair that is not in his way IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER.  He drives off in an ambulance, so he can remain as unobtrusive as possible as he makes his escape.

Carl and Marissa completely and utterly SUCK at finding ambulances that have been commandeered by drugged-up doctors (that are being driven around town WITH THEIR LIGHTS ON), and apparently so do the police.  About an hour after the escape, Carl realizes he can talk to Eric via the comm in the ambulance, and urges Eric to pull over and wait for help.

Eric doesn’t answer.  With the lights of the ambulance flashing (wut WUT WUT), Eric drives up to a church.

I guess he doesn’t feel the need to go right up to the front door.  Instead, he parks waaaaay away from the front, choosing to make a mad dash through a graveyard in the middle of the night.

Sure, it makes no sense, but boy, it’s OMINOUS, isn’t it?

In a genre that tends to be embarrassingly white, Escape From Hell at least scores a point for casting a black man as the minister.  And refreshingly, his reaction to Eric’s confused ramblings is pretty realistic—he thinks Eric is drunk or high or on the run from the police.

But no, Eric claims that he “brought it back,” “this thing from Hell” and “it keeps chasing me.”

The minister is understandably skeptical, but pushed Eric for “what’s going on.”  That’s all it takes for Eric, back from a near-death experience and on the run from demons to tell his story…

And so we go back…back…alllll the way back in time to…

ONE MONTH AGO

Seems Eric is suffering from depression: “running scared” and “empty inside,” and even though he is burning through every antidepressant he can find, no one at the hospital even suspects that he is having any personal problems.

This is hardly surprising.  After all, Eric is a nonbeliever, and deep depression is the only natural response to not believing in God, right?

“I was in the business of saving lives, but I didn’t even know how to save my own.”

And somehow, I am sure that Eric’s clinical depression will magically disappear once he has Jesus in his heart.

How insulting.  Both to atheists and to people with depression.

Eris is an emergency medicine physician, and is on duty with a little girl with a snake bite is brought in with her parents.  This kid is easily the best actor in the movie, and it’s a shame when the focus shifts from her to her father, whose heart attack is brought on by the stress of his daughter’s injury.

When the heart patient, Garrison, is resting quietly, Eric goes in to check on him, and so does the hospital’s Resident Reverend, who goes around praying for people.

Book:  Captain, do you mind if I say grace?

Mal:  Only if you say it out loud.

–Firefly, “Serenity”

Eric asks him what he is praying for, and when the reverend answers “his salvation,” Eric responds:

“Well, he’s a pretty nice guy.  You’d be better off praying for his arterial blockage.”

At that moment, I kinda love Eric.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m well aware that the movie will show Eric to be wrong, wrong, WRONG.  As we all know, being a devoted husband, an involved father, a selfless guy won’t get you into HEAVEN at the end of the day, will it?

Speaking of said nice guy, Hospital Reverend pops open his Bible right there and starts reading to Eric.  I mean, RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THE UNCONSCIOUS GUY WITH THE MASSIVE HEART PROBLEMS.

“I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were open, and another book was open, which was the Book of Life, and whoever’s name was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

And then another book was open.  And then another book.  And then another other book.

There were a lot of books.

Oh, and again (because I can’t let this go), JUST KEEP TALKING ABOUT THE LAKE OF FIRE IN FRONT OF THE PATIENT WITH HEART PROBLEMS, DICKWEED

Eric asks a good question, about why a loving god would create a hell.  So I give props to the writers for even having Eric ask the question in the first place.

Even if Hospital Reverend dodges it like a pro boxer:

“Why would anyone reject the love and mercy of God?”

BECAUSE WE DON’T BELIEVE IN HIM, JERK

He pulls the lame “If you reject God, you are choosing to go and be tortured forever, so it’s totes not God’s fault.”  But before he can spout anymore boilerplate apologetics, Garrison starts muttering, “…ducks be not proud…” and Hospital Reverend skedaddles so Eric can actually get so doctor work done in a hospital.

Yeah, Garrison is saying “ducks be not proud,” and points if you can guess why he’s saying that.

Garrison comes to, and turns out he had a near-death experience and everyone else missed it.  He cries and tells Eric that he didn’t want to come back, which is something I hope he doesn’t share with his wife and daughter.

Turns out Garrison had a little adventure: he went through the Sliders tunnel…

…and also looked down at the hospital roof, where he saw the diner sign with “ducks be not proud” on it.

So we know it was for realsies.

Garrison wanted to GO TOWARDS THE LIGHT.

But they brought him back to his loving and devoted family.

THOSE BASTARDS

Eric brings Doctor Marissa into the picture—apparently, she documents people’s near-dear experiences, like a cut-rate Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.  (You can read more about Kubler-Ross and her unscience in this Slate article.)

Eric also brings Carl into the story.  Buddy Carl is the resident cardiologist, and expositions for us that there isn’t much hope for Garrison, who needs a new heart but has a rare blood type.

Now that the secondary characters are in the picture, it’s time to explore Eric’s deep personal torment, the main reason that he’s “rejected” the love of Jesus: his own father rejected him.

We learn that Eric’s father abandoned his family and Eric hasn’t seen him in quite some time.  But now Dad is back in town and anxious to make amends.

I admit, this is a tough situation for Dad.  He’s been out of the picture for years and his son has every reason to hate him.  How do you approach someone under those circumstances?  Maybe there isn’t even a “best” way to do it.  It’s a fraught and emotional thing no matter how you go about it.

But hey, you know what might not be the best way to meet up with the son you abandoned?

Find out where he works, hang out in the parking lot of said workplace for hours like a creepy stalker, then sneak up behind him and scare the crap out of him!

Just a thought.

Doesn’t Dad kinda look like a poor man’s Roy Scheider?

SeaQuest!  I used to watch that when I was a kid.

Anyway, Eric is understandably suspicious of Dad’s motives, even when Dad gives him back the money Eric loaned him years ago.  But Dad is sober now, and owes it all to JESUS!

This just shows how heartless Eric is.  As we all know, nobody ever lies about being a Christian, and it is impossible to change and improve one’s life without becoming one, so Dad deserves immediate and unconditional forgiveness and acceptance from the son he abandoned!

Again, I kinda love Eric for his response to his Dad’s “I came to Christ…all the way” bit:

“I just left a man who really loves his family.  …  You’re a worthless piece of human garbage—you betrayed your own family for a bottle. … You wanna show me where God is in all that?”  *rips up Dad’s check and throws it in his face*

I know we’re supposed to know that Eric is WRONG for not embracing New Christian Dad (now with extra sober!), but all I can say is…Go Eric!

***

More next time on Marissa’s near-death “studies” and Eric’s Daddy Issues.