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.”


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?


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.


Posted on April 21, 2012, in Actually Not That Bad, Escape from Hell, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I think that even the RTCiest of RTCs doesn’t make one’s salvation dependent on obtaining forgiveness from other people.

    I picture the denizens of the afterlife at the end of this segment saying to each other “oh, great, here comes another tourist – I’ll hide the booze, you fire up the gas jets…”

    • Especially the RTCiests. Their whole schtick is that they know they’re doing something right when they piss everybody else off with their endless conversion spiels and demands for priviliges for Christians. If the fallen heathens aren’t angry at you, it means you being too timid in spreading the word of Christ.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        There is a difference between “Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake” and “Persecuted for being an asshole”, and a lot of RTCs have No Clue Whatsoever.

    • Grammar Police

      LOL! “And for Satan’s sake, look busy, everyone!”

    • Former Conservative

      Yeah, what happens if you have someone angry at you for some stupid petty reason? Are you damned forever?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I’ll say one thing: This dream of Eric’s is a very plausible and understandable guilt dream. He blew his father off when said father made contact a couple days ago, and now that his father’s dead he has mixed feelings about that, including the guilt that’s breaking through as the dream.

        (When my father died on New Years 1994, we were estranged for very different reasons. I am very familiar with the mixed feelings Eric would be going through. I myself had a very scary dream along similar lines shortly after he died — no conventional imagery like in the movie, but very disturbing nonetheless.)

        If the writing and production weren’t so constrained by stock Christianese tropes, this could actually have been a pretty good story.

    • I had much the same reaction at first, but after re-reading, I think it’s clear that the film is saying that it’s the non-RTCs who think salvation depends on forgiveness from other people. I might even go so far as to say straw-non-RTCs. I don’t think there are really many people who believe in Hell, and also that staying out of it depends on foregiveness from one’s fellow humans.

      • Surely that, combined with “Eric’s dad is now in hell”, implies that your post-death experiences depend on your own set of ethics rather than on the Real True Standard?

        • But I think it’s supposed to be just a dream he was having, rather than a dream that reveals the truth to Eric. Since his dad was Born Again, the truth (in the context of this movie) is presumably that Dad’s in Heaven, playing his harp.

  2. Yup, I’ll hand it to whoever wrote this script: He may be a zealot follower of a morally dubious religious dogma, but at least he can write better characters than most of his peers. I already like these two better than any filthy heathen OR good believer that Jenkins vomitted out on the paper.

    • Believe it or not, he also wrote Second Glance.

      • Really? Wow. That one was significantly worse IMHO. Maybe not Jenkins-levels of bad, but his atheist characters there were just plot devices. They were cheating, lying, fornicating, uncaring, sloppy examples of how aweful atheism makes you instead of actual people with motivations.

        Here the atheist characters are pretty good, with their only real fault being atheists in a world where hell is verifiably real. And the way this is going, they’ll probably convert once they succeed in verfying it. Of course, given that the authors acknowledge that (some) atheists just don’t believe hell is real and only need proof, I want to know why they think god doesn’t just give them that proof. Without nearly killing themselves I mean. And without making the loving father only THINK he’s gonna be okay. So yeah, I have a lot to bitch about the story and setting, but the characters are good.

        Which of the two did he make first? Are these better characters signs of his growth as a writer? Did he get lucky this once? Or is this actually his earlier work and did working in christian entertainment actually erode his capability of writing good characters in favour of whatever stereotype fits your conversion spiel best?

        • Second Glance came out in 1992, and Martin was one of four writers. Escape from Hell came out in 2000, and he was the only writer.

          Hmmm…maybe I should do one of his other movies sometime. 😀

          • Grammar Police

            I’d give an emphatic “yes!” but based on this reivew so far, Martin seems to be a *gasp* half-way decent Christian writer!

            Maybe a movie where Martin’s half-way decent writing got diluted by at least one other (crappy) writer? There’s got to be more than just “Second Glance.”

        • Really, isn’t an atheist just someone who doesn’t have faith in a divine being? Proving hell to them doesn’t make them stop being atheists, they’re just atheists who know that hell is real.

          • I personally define an atheist as someone who does not believe in the existence of a divine being. Perhaps you mean the same thing, but your use of the word ‘faith’ at least sounds pretty different. If I personally saw unrefutable proof of the existence of hell, I would not be an atheist anymore. Technically it is possible that hell exists but neither a god nor any angels or demons exist, but I would find that a low-percentage bet.

            Now, question two is if I would then have ‘faith’, i.e. become a worshipper of the diety who created that hell. I can’t say that at the moment. The noble answer would be ‘no’, but if we go by RTC rules an almighty god is of course rather difficult to defeat. So then I would have to ask myself if I am willing to face an eternity of torment on a futile matter of principle, since I have no way to prevent myself or others from being send to hell. I might turn into what I suspect a fair number of RTCs are, morbidly terrified of hell and going through all the motions hoping to escape it and bugging people about going through those same motions cause otherwise, y’know, hell. I’m not even sure opposing god WOULD be the right thing to do in face of complete and utter helplessness against an opponent who is literally impossible to defeat or even hinder. Let alone that I am sure enough of myself that I would be able to risk doing the possible right thing. Of course, I’d make sure the diety behind hell really is almighty before converting.

            And how I would ever convince myself this being is really good and just, I have no idea. I’ll ask the RTCs, they certainly got enough practice with the required cognitive dissonance.

    • Yeah, I’m actually a tad surprised, too. Wonder how this show’s gonna play out, then. 🙂

  3. Grammar Police

    Anyone else having flashbacks to Michael J. Fox in “The Frighteners”? He needs to cross over to find out who the ghostly serial killer and “he needs an out of body experience NOW!”
    But instead of shooting himself like he original decides, the love interest convinces him that freezing himself is the way to go. She’s a physician (how convenient!) so she knows how to revive him.

    Eric’s Dad-in-Hell somehow reminds me of Shane from season 2 of “The Walking Dead.” Something about the shape of face. And the lack of hair. And . . . err, no, that’s a spoiler. 😉

    • The swirling tunnel looks the same alright, though cheaper animated. Of course the frighteners was written by people with actual morals of their own instead of cribbing their notes on justice from fundamentalist’s feaver dreams. Only the serial killers actually went to hell. I bet dying father would’ve gone to heaven just fine.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      OK, so Eric is trying to get someone to do a “Flatliners” on him. In Conventional Christian Tropes, this is where he would take a Hell Trip, end up convinced of God and the Bible’s word-for-word reality, and cut to the Altar Call Ending. Though there’s an implication the movie might actually take a longer tack to the required ending.

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