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Back From Hell (1993)

Directed by Matt Jaissle
HV Films VHS

Jack arrives at a farm house. Jack is an out-of-shape man who wears white loafers and Z. Cavaricci slacks. His Z’Cavs are very tight. After confronting a man who might be possessed by Satan, Jack is shown wearing sunglasses inside the house. Eagle-eyed viewers might notice that Jack was not wearing sunglasses outside the house. Jack yells, “Alright, you shit-for-fuck!” and pummels his enemy into submission with a shovel. While this happens, Jack is not wearing sunglasses. The sunglasses were not removed or damaged during the fight. They simply appeared for no reason, then disappeared without explanation thirty seconds later. Jack’s sunglasses do not appear again.

This is just one of the many reasons why Back From Hell is a success.

Father Aaron Park is having a bad week because his fellow priests are being murdered by Satanists. You’re probably thinking, “So priests are getting killed by Satanic psychopaths, what’s the big deal?” Well, Aaron’s childhood friend, Jack, is the number one suspect. And as Aaron says, “This can’t be! We’ve known each other for years, before I found God and he found Hollywood!” After a couple of flashbacks, one ripped-out tongue, and some driving, Aaron finds ex-Hollywood star Jack (“I once had drinks with Burt Reynolds.”) in the attic of a barn. He also finds a poster that says “HANG TWENTY!” over a photo of a dog surfing. Aaron and Jack agree that they must combine forces to battle Satan. What follows are several nonsensical adventures that culminate in several nonsensical showdowns with Satanists who wear black hoods and utilize an arsenal that wouldn’t be out of place in Godfrey Ho’s Bionic Ninja. Then Aaron finds a chainsaw.

It should be noted that this movie’s climax features a twist. But the twist has no bearing on anything that came before it. Because by that time, we’re still not clear on why anything happened during the previous 80 minutes. This is what is known as the best kind of twist.

Shot on 16mm in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the price of an Orange Julius, Back From Hell is a rational presentation of an irrational series of events. Mostly concerned with people walking through backyards, blood splashing on faces, and heads being banged into objects, the movie specializes in sharing key events before the audience has any idea of why they’re being shared. As we’ve seen in The Jar, this approach can spell instant DIZZAZZ aka DISASTER for audience members who are not the director. But filmmaker Matt Jaissle and his handful of friends don’t break promises. They follow-up pointless shots of railroad tracks with either more pointless shots of railroad tracks or more eyes being pulled out of heads. Or lines like, “May the dead rise and smell the incense!” Back From Hell delivers on big-time fun. It might lose steam towards the end, but whatever. That’s life. The same thing happens when you’re having a nice week and then you have to visit the DMV to renew your driver’s license. But the difference here is that the clerk at the DMV doesn’t speak with the voice of Fat Albert because he or she is possessed by Satan.

Back From Hell isn’t ground-breaking in its disorientation. From the repetitive score that rips-off Fabio Frizzi’s main theme from Fulci’s Zombie to the Evil Dead camera tricks, this movie is firmly grounded on planet Earth. We can see where everything came from and understand what Jaissle wanted to do. Even when he communicates that Father Aaron driving a car by placing the camera underneath the steering wheel for two minutes. Jaissle holds that shot because he’s proud. That’s what he wants. Back From Hell isn’t on the same level of Boarding House or Doctor Bloodbath. Even at its most confusing, this movie is still lucid in its presentation. But that’s not an issue. Because the joy of experiencing Back From Hell is ten thousand miles above the non-joy to be had from sitting through static stuff like Devil Snow from the same era. The thick midwest accents, the psychedelic “soul selling” in negative, the appearance of demons in unexpected places, a priest shooting a cop in the face — all of these things equal happiness.

If you’re still not sold, this movie includes an end credit that reads: “BRAZILIAN WEAPONS CONSULTANT.”