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.

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Posted on April 10, 2012, in Escape from Hell, Google-fu, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. Admittedly, a sign on a hospital roof is a fairly decent test for out-of-body experiences.

    ‘Course, the fact that the person who knows what it says is involved with caring for patients who see it means it’s only single-blind, which could be a problem. Plus, of course, if I found myself floating above a hospital I probably wouldn’t notice a sign on the roof. How big is this hospital, anyways? If someone over in the east wing dies and the sign is on the west side they wouldn’t see it, right? And what if they don’t say anything? Does that mean that they didn’t leave their body or they just didn’t mention it? Indeed, it’s an open-ended experiment, such that any number of failures can be written off until you find something you can cherry-pick as a success.

    …Alright, so, actually, there are numerous flaws here. Still, none of them necessarily game-breakers. Certainly it’s a fair initial test, even if it’s not definitive proof by any means.

    *sigh* Over the all-too-cliche “Atheists are really maltheists” part. And the “Atheists are depressed” canard*. Admittedly, it’s hard to picture a happy maltheist, but still.

    *Which is not proud at all.

    • Have a word cake with word icing.

      Regarding those near-death OOB experiences? What happens if you only float to, say, the ceiling of your room? Then how would someone prove it wasn’t just a very intense hallucination? There seems to be a fair element of luck and good chance in people’s OOBEs producing the kind of results a Christian would be able to use as verification.

  2. Huh!

    PS. Re: sliders?

    Rembrandt Brown wasn’t always funny, but when he was, he was good. 😛

  3. Grammar Police

    First off, I have to give you props for referencing “Sliders” AND “Sea Quest” in the same post. My ’90s adolescence thanks you. 🙂

    So if you have a near-death experience (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross notwithstanding) you will be granted the ability to read diner signs that make no sense? Lame. Bring on the Sliders tunnel!

    What IS it with Christian fiction/movies and Daddy Issues? Is it their way of “proving” how important a two-parent household is?

    And I’ll second your praise of Eric as a character, in his as-yet-unChristianized state. No doubt all that we like about him will be eradicated with his conversion. Poor Eric, we hardly knew ye.

    • What IS it with Christian fiction/movies and Daddy Issues? Is it their way of “proving” how important a two-parent household is?

      Seems like a good set of parallel themes to represent the atheist’s “relationship” with God. You don’t actually disbelieve in your dad or God (the “Father,” after all), you just feel slighted and have to rebel. So you get angry at GodDad and then you get to be the fool and bad guy of the relationship later when GodDad revisits you later. Only you’re always the bad guy with God because God is always trying to revisit you through Jesus ~if you’d only listen~, you silly child you.

      Or something.

      Yes, this basically means they’re saying God was a surly drunk when he was feeling all smitey in the Old Testament (even if the makers wouldn’t admit it, it’s just where this movie’s choice of comparison leads). And thus, to continue the parallel I shall quote the good Sir Terry Pratchett: “The New Testament is basically about what happened when God got religion.”

  4. Garrison didn’t have a near-death experience; he just found a Stargate. Or possibly the opening sequence from an older season of Dr. Who…

    Growing up as a geek, whenever there’s a videotaped interview sequence, the first thing I think of is “please answer quickly. Reaction time is a factor…”

    “This is the money you loaned me four years ago… with interest.”
    “What kind of interest? Simple or compound? What rate? Prime? Discount window? Pssht; I don’t know why you even bothered!”

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy

    All I can say is: “HUH?”

    Surgery in a furnace room… Hospital interior as dark as an upscale bar… Unobtrusive escape by jacking an ambulance with the lights on… All leading into a LONG flashback…

    Again: “HUH?”

    I assume this is going to be a story of an NDE Hell Trip with an Altar Call ending pitching the Fire Insurance. Possibly with scenes of Hell as Uncle Zeke’s Never-ending Torture Party.

    Real kicker when you realize the actual idiom Jesus used to describe Hell was “Gehenna” — Hinnom Valley, the Jerusalem City Dump. The image I take from that is more of a cosmic discard pile than a never-ending Auschwitz.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Ruby, Massmind, everybody?

    My writing partner (a burned-out preacher-man) has been wondering about a cheezy Christian movie or play or something he caught an ending fragment of on TV many-many years ago that also seemed to be an NDE Hell Trip, and wondered if anyone can identify where it comes from. Here’s how he described the scene to me years ago, from fragmentary memory:

    The scene had two girls strapped/tied down to gurneys about to be slid into some sort of fiery furnace/Krema Oven. Dark surroundings except for the firelight, probable wailing and gnashing of teeth background noise. Somebody is throwing all kinds of filth and maggots and worms over them before sliding them into the fire and they’re screaming and screaming. (Yeah, sounds real kinky. He thought so, too.) Well, after a few minutes(?) of this, the scene cuts to an ER with one of the two girls being resuscitated and coming to in the hospital and being told they couldn’t save her friend (the one on the other gurney, now under a sheet). He thinks this was the end of the movie/show/whatever or possibly the scene immediately before an Altar Call ending where the NDE survivor (the girl) says the magic words. The memory has bugged him for some time, and even my searches on Cheezy Christian Movies (such as the Estes Pirkle stuff) has come up blank. Does anyone recognize the movie/whatever from that one-scene description?

    • Oh, man.

      Sorry I can’t help, HUG. I have no idea what movie that might be.

      But if anyone finds out, please let me know, because it sounds METAL.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I’ve asked around for a couple years, and have yet to find anyone who recognizes it. Kind of strange, because that scene sounds like the kind of thing that’d stick in your mind. Only conclusion I could come to is that it must have been some locally-made thing that maybe aired once or twice on a local hookup.

  7. Why do they never start these things with SoS7:1-5?

    By contrast, if an RTC gets depressed, he’s obviously not a good RTC, so he should give more money to his church.

    Why would anyone reject the love and mercy of the Invisible Sky Dragon? I mean, really, I’ve got this book that he dictated to me and everything! What more does it take to convince you wilful children?

    Please don’t correct your typo – I like the idea of Eris as an emergency medic.

    “Yeah, there’s a great world waiting for us after we die.” kind of maps to “Here’s your cyanide pill.” unless you have a really convincing reason for it not to.

    GDwarf, I think one first needs to define the out-of-body experience – it may well be that the constraints of the experiment are such that “hovering a hundred feet directly over my body” is something it’s reasonable to test for. (The OOBEs I’ve read about tend to be more “I saw my body from outside and the other things in the room, then it all went strange”, but hey.)

    • GDwarf, I think one first needs to define the out-of-body experience – it may well be that the constraints of the experiment are such that “hovering a hundred feet directly over my body” is something it’s reasonable to test for. (The OOBEs I’ve read about tend to be more “I saw my body from outside and the other things in the room, then it all went strange”, but hey.)

      Oh, indeed, and as far as I know everything they describe is stuff they could’ve seen from the ground. Which rather supports the hypothesis that it’s their brain going weird and losing track of where it’s located, which is cool in-and-of-itself. I mean, obviously our brain has some way of determining where it is, but to think that there’s some sort of switch that, when flicked, makes it think it’s located outside of your body is, frankly, amazing and weird.

      • The more I learn about cognition, the more convinced I am that the world I live in is an illusion – there are so very many layers of what I can only call “software” between raw sensory data and my perceptions that what I’m getting bears only a passing resemblance to anything objective.

    • I have a feeling the Canticle of Canticles doesn’t get used because these works are (at least trying to be) more concerned with philosophy than anything sensual. But even then, why do we never get something like Micah 6:8? Or anything from Amos?

      (Yes, I know you meant that as a joke, but it does put to mind why the more philosophical/altruistic concerns of the Tanakh’s prophets tend not to get the limelight.)

  8. I get that forgiveness is a big deal for RTCs. But I find it really obnoxious how they usually translate that not as ‘I must forgive others for their transgressions’ but as ‘others are obligated to forgive me because I ask’. After all, God just forgave them for their sins, so if you don’t forgive them, you think you know better than God, you filthy heathen.

    So we get scenes here with bad, rebelious Eric who cruely insults his father who is a good RTC now, and if God has forgiven him, how dare Eric not do the same.

    As a rule of thumb, anyone sprouting the importance of forgiveness has my sympathy if he’s offering it, not so much when he’s asking it. If it is me he’s asking forgivness from, I might still forgive him, but I recognize his request for sympathy as ultimately benefitting himself. And I will treat it as such.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      But I find it really obnoxious how they usually translate that not as ‘I must forgive others for their transgressions’ but as ‘others are obligated to forgive me because I ask’.

      That’s called “Interpretation for personal advantage”, and they’re not the only ones who do it.

  9. For a good book on NDEs and NDE “researchers”, read Connie Willis’ Passage. (it’s also about the Titanic. And disasters. And getting lost. And grief. But in a fun way !)

    Come to think of it, that book actually taught me the term “leading question”, how to recognize them and why they’re bad. So it’s like a crash course in critical thinking ! And it doesn’t involve Christians who think you’ll go to hell if you aren’t saved. Well, it almost doesn’t.

  10. Am I missing something, or isn’t there a distinct possibility that Eric has previously been to the exact same place on the roof and seen that sign? Shouldn’t the proof of an out-of-body experience be something that couldn’t be a random memory floating out of the dark?

    And how exactly does having an out-of-body (out-of-building?) experience prove the truth of one specific religious explanation for souls?

    • I wonder about this too. It’s like when RTCs argue that Universe was designed and when they “prove” it, they automatically jump to conclusion that their Designer is the right one.

    • First part: presumably the sign was put up with that text after he’d started the experiment.

      Second part: um, well, that’s a very good question, and… look! Elvis!

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

    Why the fuck would something that just escaped from hell start chasing this asshole? You’d think it would be content to just not be in hell anymore.

    • I believe one of the traditional answers, were this an intentional-horror movie rather than an unintentional-horror movie, would be “Because it will be pulled back to Hell in three days unless it can catch the person who let it out and force him to complete the process by taking its place there.”

  12. 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.

    No. You don’t score points for having a Magical Negro.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy

    “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.”

    That’s the one the RTCs keep stressing (Revenge Fantasy? Upping the Ante? Pressure for the Altar Call? “Scare ’em into the Kingdom”?) while skipping over a nearby passage:

    “And then death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.”

    Only it isn’t “death and hell”. That’s in English. In the original language it’s “Thanatos and Hades”. Thanatos, God of Death; Hades, God of the Dead; who were not so much evil as stern and implacable. Once Thanatos delivered you to Hades, Hades would never let you go. Ever. And yet here the dead are resurrected, pulled out of the realm of Hades. And then Hades dies. Death dies. THAT is what someone from the time and place where Revelation was written would see in that passage.

    • And then Hades dies. Death dies.
      So the Bible actually says that with strange eons, even death may die? Gives me a whole new perspective on Christianity.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        Ia, Ia, Cthulhu, Fthagn?

        More like “Death is the Last Enemy to be defeated”. And remember the chronology re when Revelation was written re HPL’s stuff. If there’s a connection and/or influence, it’s the other way around.

        Either way, it’s some Heavy Shit.

  14. 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!

    Scaring the crap out of him is exactly what Eric’s heavenly Father does in this film, and it apparently works, so why not?

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