Go To Hell (1999) – By Josh Samford

Speaking as a Protestant myself, I won’t lie, an occasional jab at the Catholic church (if it is an inspired one) can definitely be a funny and pleasurable thing. I generally think we can all use a good riff on something we take serious every now and then. Sometimes a film comes along that creates a satire of a subject we all take serious, and makes a complete mockery of things we are beholden to. Sometimes mean-spirited, sometimes with an air of rebellious good natured ribbing; these things are regardless because Go to Hell is neither here nor there. It’s not a jab at Catholicism in any true nature, and if it were a satire god only knows what in the world it is making light of. No, Go to Hell is only a satire if one believes “Hey, what if the pope used Ninjas and worked with the CIA?” to be rigorous thought provoking satirical comedy. This is exactly what makes the flick so great though, because regardless of your views on religion, the Catholic church or Transvestite Elvis impersonators, we can all agree that when the three are thrown into the same film as wrestlers and Irish men in kilts; the results will always be pure gold. It’s barely even a matter of personal tastes anymore!

So what in the world am I rambling on about? Well, obviously Go to Hell, but I bet you’re wondering what the deal is with this flick. Well, it’s released by Troma Team Video, so that should be your first sign as to what the film is all about from a quality standpoint, but what is actually really great about the flick isn’t that it robs the Troma style (as so many b-flicks often do), but takes a lot of the cornball going-ons that take place in your regular Loyd Kauffman outing and adds actual talent! Not to say Kauffman’s films can’t be brilliant in their own unique way, but unlike the films he often releases, Go to Hell appears to take an original route in the quest for b-movie purity. There’s some style infused in the chaos every once in a while (with what you could expect from such a low budget film) and overall, they just tackle things in a way most people wouldn’t have the audacity to do so. It’s all very high concept for such a minuscule film, and although it has it’s share of bumps and bruises along the way, those responsible pulled everything off that was necessary; and in the process created one heck of an entertaining flick.

So what exactly is the film about? Hard to explain. It focuses on Dario Dare (if you don’t catch the Dario Argento reference, you’re not a horror movie buff) a wiry writer for the rather insane newspaper rag “The National Explainer” which tends to report on just about anything that will grab their audiences attention; whether it’s completely ridiculous or not. We come into Dare’s story as he is kicked out of his punk rock girlfriend’s home and is very well on the verge of losing his job. He is pressured to come up with a spectacular exclusive, so reluctantly he heads out to cover the arrival of Roman Catholic Cardinal Giancarlo Ponti, who appears to be quite the hotshot. Along the way we are introduced to Marion Tango, a Vatican secret agent sent to look after Ponti. Turns out a conspiracy is at foot and it involves secret agents from hell, mind control through demon possession and the stealing of a soul; Dario Dare’s soul to be specific.

I was lucky enough to have been given a copy of Go to Hell through an online DVD store that I bought a few movie related shirts from a while back, at no cost, but in retrospect had I known the film was as great as it turned out to be, I would have bought it in a heart beat. Some films were meant to make you think, and some were meant to do the thinking for you. Go to Hell is obviously one of the latter. There are holes in the plot you could drive a Buick through and if you’re a cynic, the obvious stages and implausible settings will only grind your nerves; but if you’re truly that cynical and ultimately an elitist, why on earth are you watching a movie from Troma in the first place? It’s all in good fun, and as a film seems aware of when to go over the top and when to keep things as subtle as a flick like this can possible get. When watching, I get the feeling the filmmakers actually have an idea about how to tackle a ‘serious’ movie, but have instead chosen to take on something a bit lighter. That’s not meant to degrade what this movie is all about, to say that it’s not up to high enough standards or whatever, but while watching I feel as if the filmmakers have watched and studied enough flicks out there to know what works and what doesn’t, and I respect that. I also respect that our leading man, the undeniable Rock ‘N’ Roll Ray is a Kung Fu fan and even included a clip from the Ti Lung classic “Avenging Eagle” in a scene that takes place at a local motel.

That also makes for a decent segway to talk about the cast. I don’t believe I have been as impressed with a B-movie cast since I first sat down with Tromeo & Juliet a few years back. Yes, I’ll admit the actors are over the top when unnecessary and often times lacking that same charisma when it might be a welcome relief, but for the few things I felt were blundered occasionally it seemed as if the cast had a good time and were trying to be as creative as possible in the confines of the script. There actually seems to be a chemistry between the three leads (Rock ‘N’ Roll Ray, Renee Werbowski and Chaz Truog), and frankly they just make a good team when on-screen together. It almost makes you wish for a sequel. Rock ‘N’ Roll Ray (I’ll just call him Ray from now on) is definitely the standout, as he is the most off the wall actor on display. He takes on at least two roles in the film, as the previously mentioned Dario Dare and his German-accented brother A-Man, who is as oddball creation as you’ll likely ever see. Describing the freak is almost too much of a task for me to handle. Just imagine as feminine a male model as you can find, add on a thick German accent that sounds slightly Scandinavian and cross him with a S&M freak who screeches when he talks, and that’s basically a simplified version of what A-Man is all about. Frankly, after seeing the movie, he has become a hero of mine. Whenever I get down, I just think to myself, what would A-Man do? And then I realize the idea is idiotic and A-Man would likely do something even more idiotic than what I was thinking of, and essentially lose my train of thought. Renee Werbowski as Marion Tango plays the straight-(wo)man of the film, only because she doesn’t have a ridiculous accent or get to be as zany, but she definitely gets put in some crazed situations, including the beginnings of a lesbian love scene! Her role is that of the actual heroic figure in the film, which is a fun way of changing around genre expectations and her role is often the glue that holds everything together, and shows some restraint throughout. Chaz Truog though,
he’s just out there. His character only really shows up at the beginning and towards the end, but when he’s on-screen he makes for some of my favorite scenes. His thick Scottish accent is actually pulled off very well, and of the actual ‘jokes’ within the film, he is given the best ones. Including a sight gag that has him revealing two T-shirts that works best when seen, not described.

Overall, it’s hard to find a better flick to just vegg out to and have a good time. Although I came into it by happenstance and never intended to search it out, or even a film of this caliber, but I am thankful I did experience it and literally do count it as one of my newfound favorite films. A flick made on the cheap but obviously with a whole lot of heart, I can’t help but highly recommend it!