Escape from Hell, Part 4

With his makeshift Death Chamber/Resurrection Chamber set up, Eric calls Carl.  The following exchange is GLORIOUS, and it must be borne in mind that Carl plays it completely straight and completely casual.

“Dr. Burton.”

“Carl, it’s Eric.”

“Hey, old buddy!  I just got off work.  Where are you?”

“In the boiler room.  I might need your help with something.”

“Sure, what do you need?”

Is Carl not the most awesome friend in the world???  “Hey, pal!  What can I help you with, in a strange place we’ve never been before?”

Eric coldly explains that he is going to shoot himself up with “a potassium-cyanide bolus cocktail.”  (If you are like me and wonder what a bolus is, it is this.)  Carl (understandably) yells at Eric not to do it, but Eric, still cold and resolute, tells Carl that “you’re going to bring me back” and “everything you need is right here.”

Jerk.

Eric does not deserve a friend as awesome as Carl.  It is hard to imagine a more selfish and manipulative and cruel act than poisoning yourself, then telling your best friend that he will bring you back.  What if Carl can’t do it, or even just can’t get there in time?  CARL is the one who has to live with that.

Look, I know that Eric thinks this is The Only Way To Learn The Truth, but that doesn’t make him less of a jerk.  Turns out he takes after his old man after all.

Carl sprints back into the hospital, as well he might, and grabs Marissa on his way to the boiler room.  Meanwhile, Eric flatlines, flies out of the hospital (seeing the “Loose Lips Sink Ships” sign on the way out), makes his very own trip down the Sliders tunnel…

And hears demonic voices telling him there is no hope, like Blondie, right?

Ummm…has fireballs rush at his head, like Garrison, right?

Nope.

Instead, Eric is transported to a pretty meadow with mountains in the background, utterly alone.

“Oh, Carl, don’t bring me back!  Please, if you love me, buddy, don’t bring me back!  This place is beautiful!”

Personally, I think the woods Eric was hiking fleeing like a startled puppy through earlier were much prettier, but I guess that’s why I’m not a born-again Christian.

Eric explains it all to the black preacher (I had almost forgotten he was part of this film:

“It was surreal.  No, it was better than that.”

I’ve never thought of “surreal” as an inherently good thing…

“It was like everything I had ever seen or felt or tasted was a mere shadow of what this was.”

Ah, Eric is well on his way to being a RTC, as he embraces the idea that this world we have is a waiting room, just a boring place to wipe your feet and wait for Heaven.

As Carl and Marissa (well, mostly Carl) attempt to revive Eric, yet another angel appears to Eric in the meadow.  This is a chunky middle-aged angel, not the skinny high-school angel of the blind Christian lady, but he has the same message: it’s not Eric’s time yet.

Still not impressed.

Eric turns around, and a gateway to Hell opens up.  Sadly, Buffy is not there to close it back up again.

And, of course, AT THAT VERY MOMENT, Eric’s mom feels compelled to hit her knees for her boy.  Because her Christianity grants her MAGICAL SUPERPOWERS that tell her when her kid is making a stopover in Hell.

By the way, none of this makes any sense.  I mean, of course it doesn’t, since we’re talking about trips to Hell and back, but I mean…why is Eric experiencing something so radically different from any of the other people we have encountered, both Christian and not?  Garrison and Blondie weren’t faked out to this extent–Garrison had happy thoughts, but got no glimpse of Heaven before the fireballs got him.  The blind Christian lady saw Heaven floating in outer space, not as some meadow.  This whole thing, in fact, seems to support Eric’s earlier assertion that people make their own Heavens and Hells, but that flies in the face of the doctrine the movie wants us to accept–that there Heaven and Hell are real places, not products of the human mind.

But hey, they had a $8.50 special effects budget, and dammit, they wanted to use it.

Eric finds himself in a very typical Hell setpiece, with screaming in the background, and the Gregorian chanters from the opening credits ahh-ahh-ing.  He looks around, utterly flabbergasted, like he’s surprised that Hell sucks.

“Carl, if you can hear me, you gotta get me outta here.”

Come here, go away—it’s a pattern with Eric.

Eric encounters a Random Guy who is being eaten from the inside out by worm things crawling under his skin.  I’d say “ewww,” as I am normally freaked out by bugs, but the effect is really bad.  And not even in a fun, goofy way.  It’s just like a simple child’s drawing.

“Draw a worm.”  *squiggly line*  “Done.”

Eric, who apparently is no hero in Hell, doesn’t even try to help Random Guy, and runs off in the opposite direction, only to be blasted by a Hunger-Gamesy wall of fire.

But he’s fine.

So is Random Guy, who wanders up (no hard feelings!) and explains that sometimes people are tortured, and sometimes the demons let up, to “let the fear torture you.”  Okay, I guess, but isn’t relief…relief, even if you know more pain is coming?  Don’t look a gift horse in then mouth, is all I’m saying.

Random Guy tells his story:

“Two friends and I decided to get together and try some heroin.  My first time, and I O.D.  But I think the real reason that I’m here is because all those times I should have been paying attention to the sermons, I was paying attention to Leslie Wilson in the third pew.”

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the filmmakers’ intent, but I can’t help but observe that “Leslie” is one of those names that is used for both boys and girls, and am tempted to draw my own conclusions about why Random Guy is in RTC Hell.

Eric and Random Guy wander off together, only to stumble upon Garrison, who, loving husband and father that he was, is being tortured by being turned into a tree and back again.

Hey, don’t look at me—I didn’t make this up.

“I’m Harold.  The tree’s name is Bob.”

Random Guy shows Eric how he can see Garrison’s memories by touching him.  (Wut?  Again, I didn’t make this up: Gene Roddenberry came up with mind melds, not me.)  Anyway, Eric sees that Garrison was witnessed to by a friend not too long ago.

And because Garrison politely declined the proselytizing, HE DESERVES TO BE TORTURED FOREVER.

It all makes perfect sense.

Oh, and at one point, Garrison was relaxing on his couch, and chose to watch a football game rather than a TV preacher.

SINNER!!!

(Hey, by that logic, I should be a shoe-in for Heaven.  I’ve watched waaay more Christian movies than many Christians!  😀 )

Eric asks to see his dad, who “may be here.”  Random Guy confirms that he is not there, and when Eric questions his certainty on this issue, Random Guy reveals that HE WAS A DEMON ALL ALONG MWOO-HA-HA-HA-HAAAA

Not as scary as the serial killer angel from Second Glance.

Just as Random Demon is about to rip Eric a hellish new one, Eric is sucked almost all the way back into his body by Carl’s tireless efforts.  But first, Eric is met again by the middle-aged angel.  Eric asks one more time to see his father, and the angel says that is not possible, but that…

“You father loves you and forgives you, just as your heavenly father does, if you’d only ask.”

Oh, that’s nice WHY IS ERIC’S FATHER FORGIVING HIM WHEN ERIC DID NOTHING WRONG GAAAAHHHHHHH

Finally, Eric wakes up in his own body (and back at the beginning of the movie).  But the demon has followed him, which is why Eric fled to the church.

“Isn’t a church supposed to be holy ground?”

The preacher actually laughs at this, and says no, that it depends on what is inside a person, not inside a building, so I can only assume that he has a lot of experience with people fleeing demons in his church.

As Carl and Marissa speed towards the church (using the ambulance’s GPS tracker, I think), Eric hears whispering and knows the demon has arrived.  Dark clouds cover the walls of the church and the preacher actually looks a little freaked out, because I guess all those other demon attacks were small-time, but NOW shit is real.

But the fear doesn’t last.  PreacherMan tells the demon that he is covered in the blood of Jesus (ew) and his name is in the Book of Love Life and so the demon better just step down.

AND THE DEMON TOTALLY DOES

It is just as simple as that.

PreacherMan knows an opportunity for a hard sell when he sees one, and tells Eric that the demon can still get him, unless he gives his life to Jesus.

Does it really count as salvation if it is motivated so much by fearI didn’t think that was how it worked.

But lest we think Eric is solely motivated by fear, he mentions wanting to be with his father.  I am insulted for his mother’s sake that he doesn’t mention her, too.  She’s the one who raised him, who didn’t abandon him, who has always had a great relationship with him, but it’s not motivation to be with her in Heaven that compels Eric.  No, he wants to be with JerkDad.

I don’t like Eric any more.

PreacherMan leads Eric in prayer, and it is really hard to see these men pray like that, because Eric is crying real tears and PreacherMan is simply scrunching up his face.

Carl and Marissa rush in, and Eric embraces Marissa.  Which would be really sweet except that he tells her, “We need to talk,” and we all know that means only one thing coming from a newly-converted RTC.

Then he hugs both Marissa and Carl and WHY ISN’T ERIC THANKING CARL FOR SAVING HIS LIFE YOU INGRATE AND HORRIBLE FRIEND GORRAMITALL.

Carl deserves better.  And I imagine he’ll find it, too, once he unfriends Eric.  I can’t imagine Carl putting up with very much Come To Jesus talk.  He’s way too cool and content with his own life for that.

Sigh.  The end.

Sorry this palate cleanser took so long, everyone.  Coming next: The Secret on Ararat!

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Posted on May 2, 2012, in Escape from Hell, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. When Eric’s in “heaven” he sounds like someone on some good strong drugs. “Man, I can, like, feel colors, you know?”

    I have a theory that reactionary religions of all stripes are anti-sex, anti-good music, anti-art, anti-awesome stuff in life because they want to have a monopoly on ecstasy. This little heaven scene does not disprove my theory.

    • Yeah, the Dutch versions of RTCs seem like that. A year or so ago they were complaining that a big bicyle race was passing through a city where they have a modest amount of support on a Sunday. Usual boiler plate whining, but they also added that they didn’t like professional sports in any case, cause the admiration for well performing athletes is too much like idolatery and you should really only be admiring god. It really hit me that they see admiration and love and joy as zero-sum games. Any bit of pleasure you derive from anything not god-related is sinful, and will only drive you away from god since why would you need him if you can get joy elsewhere?

      This is the same group who’s political party is actually the oldest in the nation (others have merged or fallen apart since then), and I am convinced the only changes they ever made to their program is expanding the list of things they oppose as they became available. Incidentally, they are very big on obeying the government, but did mention during the government that legalized all the things we’re famous for that they could no longer support the government. Which is exceptional, since they told their followers to comply with the german occupational government in WW2. Yeah, having a long history and thus a long track record can be a bitch, can’t it?

      • Over here in the U.S., our popular right-wing religious types are hugely into sports. Mostly football (as opposed to what the rest of the world calls football, which we call soccer.) I think it’s because our popular right-wing religious types are worshipers of a constrained, violent, willfully ignorant idea of masculinity more than of anything else.

        • Also, I would guess, because it was important when they were young, especially if they grew up in small towns, and (like everyone who doesn’t take care to avoid it) they’re indulging in subconscious nostalgia.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          Never mind American-rules Football. For the REAL Masculine Christians, it’s MMA cage fighting. The Wartburg Watch blog has been keeping an eye on these guys for some time.

  2. The angel: “It’s not your time yet. But for some reason we’re opening up a hellgate and sending you down there anyway, just like everyone who refuses to listen to our most obnoxious followers.”
    The devil: “I’ll explain to you exactly how crappy hell is, I’ll show you that you can get here by not converting, and let you know that your father is in heaven so you’ll have all the motivation to get there.”

    Who’s the villain again?

    Also, how and why is the devil able to follow him? It never happened in any other NDE’s, so why now? Because he made it all the way through the slider’s tunnel? Well, why did that happen? And I fully agree it’s all pretty flimsy. He sees nothing that he couldn’t have guessed by himself, after the sign (who put that there? You say Carl had to pick up Marissa. Does she always have a sign on standby in case anyone has an NDE?). The only guy he meets is someone he recently saw and has fresh memories about.

    I think the father forgiveness analogy is perfect. In that I feel any omnipotent creator that might be around is fully to blame if I was born as a being that CANNOT choose to be righteous thanks to his meddeling (either by creating humans wrong or, for the literallists, putting a magic tree unsupervised next to the humans that will irrevocably spread sin throughout all time and space if it is eaten from) and despite his omnipotent ability to fix that, and I do not owe such a being any appology for not being better than he made it possible for me to be.

    • In answer to one question: yes, it would appear that Marissa changes her sign out quite frequently, just in case a NDE should happen at the hospital.

      In “answer” to another: I have no idea how the demon was able to follow him (and thus scare him into converting) but why Garrison never got anything approaching evidence like that. Indeed, Garrison only felt happy as he went down the Sliders tunnel the first time, and so had no reason to think he wasn’t doing what he needed to get to Heaven.

      • Indeed. I was actually a bit hopefull in the previous posts. I know not all atheists would agree with me on this, but I do consider it a relatively good portrail of atheists in a christian film when they simply have no evidence and will convert when given evidence. But in as far as my hopes were up, the movie rather jumps the shark in the third act. The existence of heaven and hell is not demonstrated irrefutable in an repeatable manner. Even if we accept the NDE’s are real, it’s total crapshoot what you see there. Two unsaved guys have an NDE, one comes back with a feeling of bliss, the other of horror. Why should anyone assume the latter is correct while the former was deliberately misleading? (And if Garrison was only in the tunnel and never made it to the heavenly set for Heidi, why was he so happy about it?)

        The ‘Garrison is in hell because someone wanted to tell him about Jesus and he wouldn’t listen’ bit presented without critcism is just icing on this fuckfest-cake. I guess the makers would justify it by scare-em-straight. But that just raises the all important question as to why god wouldn’t just give this evidence to everyone, instead of to only one person who happens to have a NDE. Why make it impossible in the real world to prove the existence of hell? And why, in the movie, give Garrison a false sense of security? There was a hellfire-and-damnation preacher RIGHT NEXT TO HIS BED. If those bastard angels had shown him the fireballs and just let him wake up for a few seconds, the preacher would’ve told him all about how to convert and he’d be saved.

        • I think it’s latent Calvinism. Garrison wasn’t one of the elect and Eric was. Of course, preaching “convert or else” doesn’t make sense if everything’s predestined, but making sense doesn’t seem to be a goal of RTC-type stuff. Making the audience feel good does. They chose to make the audience feel good by showing good people being tortured for eternity, which shows something pretty nasty about the underlying theology.

  3. The preacher actually laughs at this, and says

    “Not for the Unsaved, boy. Get off my lawn before I call the cops to take away your body.”

    What Eric should be saying to Marissa:

    “Yeah, it really is true. Put a foot wrong and you’re consciously tortured forever. We need to find a way to fight this… thing.”

  4. Wow. I just can’t stop staring at the surrealistically bad chroma-keyed backgrounds and special effects in the still images. Is this going to be one of those “so bad it’s GOOD” films? Scary thought.

  5. Former Conservative

    I’m pretty sure that tree thing came from Dante. Suicides wound up as trees since they chose to destroy their human bodies, they were denied human form in the afterlife. They also got pecked at by birds.

    You’ve definitely seen more Christian movies than this Christian. I’ve seen the Omega Code and 2 of the Left Behind movies, mostly to mock them. Netflix streaming is perfect fodder for DIY MST3K nights.

    “In heaven, everything is fine. You’ve got your good things and I’ve got mine.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Eric and Random Guy wander off together, only to stumble upon Garrison, who, loving husband and father that he was, is being tortured by being turned into a tree and back again.

      I’m pretty sure that tree thing came from Dante.

      Or somebody was listening to “Fluttershy’s Lament” on a real bad batch of acid.

  6. I would also like to add that the demon is a dumbass. He seems to know all about Eric, given that he shows him a guy he knew and that his father isn’t in hell. So he would presumably know that he’s having an NDE, if the fact that he’s not being tortured didn’t tip him off. So why does he go through the whole timewasting charade of pretending to be human before revealing himself, and only then trying to slice him to shreds and pursue him back to earth? Kill the guy right now, before he is revived, you dolt. Is the devil a Bond villain now? Further evidence in my book that the hell here is fake, and the devil and angels are all in cahoots.

  7. Ok, one more for the road: It is also mighty convenient that ‘not paying attention to a fundie authority figure’ is being put forward as the main reason for going to hell… by fundie authority figures. Here we have both Garrison and Random Guy’s cover story with his ‘real reason’ for going to hell. That I suspect is the real purpose of this flick. Not to convert any heathens, but to show it to the hordes of prostelizers as pep-talk and revenge fantasy. “Just remember, all those disheartening times where people will not listen to your sales talk, refuse your tracts or mock you, every last one of those people is going to hell because of it.” A clear case of your god hating all the same people you hate.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      That I suspect is the real purpose of this flick. Not to convert any heathens, but to show it to the hordes of prostelizers as pep-talk and revenge fantasy. “Just remember, all those disheartening times where people will not listen to your sales talk, refuse your tracts or mock you, every last one of those people is going to hell because of it.” A clear case of your god hating all the same people you hate.

      Ivan, I am convinced THAT is the main reason for a LOT of Christianese fiction, movies, TV, and any attempts at creative media or the arts. To masturbate the target audience with “You, Dear Reader, are RIGHT and THEY are WRONG!” over and over and over. I know it’s the real secret of how Jerry “Buck” Jenkins became a best-selling GCAAT — and the one he doesn’t mention in his $1200-a-pop online/correspondence course on how to write.

      (HIstorically, in the same Bible, one of the signs of a FALSE prophet was the false prophet tells you what you want to hear (“You, Dear Reader, are RIGHT…”) and the real prophet tells you what you need to hear.)

      And I don’t know who it was (Mother Teresa?) who said that when God hates all the same things you hate, something is seriously wrong.

  8. Grammar Police

    “Does it really count as salvation if it is motivated so much by fear?”

    Silly Ruby! In RTC-land, fear is the only motivation!

  9. Man, that whole NDE sequence sounds like a dream, or what a drug trip is supposed to: No real logical connection between anything, and everything being oddly surreal. Things just happen, tied together by only the flimsiest of connections.

    If the afterlife was truly like that then there are going to be lots of people who spend eternity having to writing final exams they forgot to study for in their least-favourite class while naked. While their teeth fall out.

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy

    As Carl and Marissa speed towards the church (using the ambulance’s GPS tracker, I think), Eric hears whispering and knows the demon has arrived. Dark clouds cover the walls of the church and the preacher actually looks a little freaked out, because I guess all those other demon attacks were small-time, but NOW shit is real.

    My writing partner told me about a Spiritual Warfare Expert (who if a light bulb burned out would take out his Bible and start rebuking the Demon of Burned Out Light Bulbs) who actually ran into a real one. It was a repeat of the “Seven Sons of Sceva” scene in the Book of Acts (where some exorcists ran into a REAL demon for the first time).

    But the fear doesn’t last. PreacherMan tells the demon that he is covered in the blood of Jesus (ew) and his name is in the Book of Love Life and so the demon better just step down.

    AND THE DEMON TOTALLY DOES

    It is just as simple as that.

    Which is WHY Christianese Fiction is so lame. You don’t build up your main bad guy just to take him down so trivially. And heroes are only as strong as the villains they defeat — trivially-weak villains, trivially-weak heroes.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Eric asks to see his dad, who “may be here.” Random Guy confirms that he is not there, and when Eric questions his certainty on this issue, Random Guy reveals that HE WAS A DEMON ALL ALONG MWOO-HA-HA-HA-HAAAA

    Ruby, everybody:

    This shtick is a direct ripoff of the ending scene of the Jack Chick tract “You Goofed!” Almost word-for-word.

    • Well, except that Jack Chick’s demon was smart enough to give the guy terrible advice (such as ‘you don’t have to be a bigotted stuck up prick to get into heaven’) and only dropped the act once the guy was actually dead and doomed in hell. I mean, it had the horrible message of all Chick Tracts and it fails to explain why the devil, who is defined by his rebellion against God hates people who rebel against God, but at least the devil was smart about it.

      This devil kindly explains to Eric how he can still avoid hell, and waits long enough with his reveal that Eric can actually escape and put it in practice.

      When your plot is worse than a Chick Tract, you have a problem.

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy

    So after writing that showed some potential and depth (at least in comparison to Conventional Christianese swill), the flick chickens out completely into a rushed Altar Call Ending.

    I think I’ll stick with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and its derivative fan works. Much better storytelliing and even more Gospel than the Official Christianese stuff.

    P.S.

    Eric? If you’re trying to deliberately trigger an NDE, try something like propofol (Michael Jackson Warm Milk) — much more controllable, and can be easily reversed as long as you’re being monitored. (On second thought, maybe not propofol specifically — it has a side effect of causing total amnesia of the time you were under.)

    I can only conclude the writer used “Potassium Cyanide Bolus” because cyanide is a generally-known poison. Unfortunately, chelating the hemoglobin is a lot nastier and less controllable than suppressing the breathing reflex; the end result is the same — tissue oxygen starvation — but a blood agent like cyanide is a pretty rough and dirty way to do it, and much harder to reverse.

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