Exit to Hell

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Exit to Hell  (2013, dir: Robert Conway; cast: Kane Hodder, Tiffany Shepis, Dan Higgins, Jason Spisak, Rena Riffel)



Exit to Hell is derivative trash, and not in a good way. It's a boring mishmash of scenes culled from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its copycats, from Tarantino's work (most notably Grindhouse) and its copycats, and from assorted torture porn films.

The film doesn't so much have a story, as a setup for a repetitive cycle of violence. We have this desert town of Redstone, which is inhabited by redneck cannibals. Criminals enter (usually trying to evade cops or other criminals) and are killed and eaten.

There is no main character, because newcomers to town die off so quickly. We begin with two thugs, who kill and rob some drug dealers. They escape to Redstone, but are quickly killed by the locals.

We cut to a sleazy nightclub. Some of its employees massacre the Russian mobsters who own this nightclub, then escape to Redstone with the mob's money. These employees are the closest we get to having main characters, but most of them are killed (by the locals) midway into the film. And in very perfunctory fashion.

The Russian mobsters want their money back. They torture some witnesses to the nightclub shooting, extract information, kill the witnesses, then pursue their employees to Redstone. Where the Russians are then killed by the locals.

There are so many derivative, clichéd scenes in this film:

* There's the sleazy gas station owner, who reads porn. Naturally, his gas station's restroom is filthy, with shit on the walls, toilet backed up, and flies buzzing.

* There's the evil, redneck sheriff who runs this town.

* The cannibal family includes a wheelchair bound matriarch. She cackles as a young woman begs for mercy.

* A fire and brimstone preacher blares forth from a cheap radio. The cannibal father admonishes his son to say Grace before eating. Yes, Exit to Hell takes the usual swipe at Christianity. (Why is it that movie cannibals never practice one of the other Abrahamic faiths?)

* There's the requisite nudity. A young woman is tied down and stripped naked so that her breasts are exposed. She's then tortured.

* This young lady is then killed with a ... yes, a chainsaw.

* The mobsters are in the usual Tarantino mold, combining extreme brutality with self-referential irony, wry observations, and clever quips.

* This film tries too hard to be gritty. Scratch marks, and grain, and dirty spots flicker across the screen, as in an old 1970s print. Also some overexposed frames, and spots where it looks as if the print had broken and was taped together by the projectionist. It's all very Tarantino. Very Grindhouse.

Exit to Hell is another example of style over substance. Not only is there a lack of story, the film lacks engaging characters. Engaging characters don't have to be likable. But they should engage our sympathies, or at least, our interest. All of this film's characters are flat, one-dimensional caricatures.

This is a short film. About an hour and 12 minutes, not including credits.

I suppose one can speculate about the film's "symbolism and deeper themes". It is called Exit to Hell. Only lowlifes end up here. We're told as much by the sleazy gas station owner. Most of the characters are lost in the desert before they find Redstone. (Although apparently, you can find it on a map, as do the Russian mobsters.)

So maybe, Redstone really is hell? If so, would that be clever, or a ripoff of High Plains Drifter? Unfortunately, Exit to Hell is too uninteresting for me to care.

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