Inferno (2012) – By Cary Conley

David Marquette seems to have everything. He runs a successful business and makes good money. He has a nice home and a loving wife. But David is arrogant, self-centered, foul-mouthed, rude, and just plain mean. He is cheating on his wife with his secretary and he’s borderline abusive with the girl, cursing and insulting her and alternately denying her sex then demanding it on a whim. But it all comes to an end when he is murdered in a bungled robbery attempt. David wakes up as if from a deep sleep only to meet a stranger who introduces himself as Vincent.

The pair seem to be located in a cavernous basement. David wants to go home and Vincent promises him he can do so if he will only follow him deeper into the bowels of the building. But quickly David realizes he is in Hell and his guide, Vincent, is actually Satan himself. Vincent has several rooms to present to David, the contents of which are meant to show David that his selfish actions have also hurt others. As the two move from room to room the atmosphere weighs heavier on David’s soul due to the massive burden of guilt he carries before the arrogant young man seems to have a change in heart, so with the snap of his fingers, David is released from Hell and is returned to the arms of his loving wife…or is he? In a twist Rod Serling would be proud of, Old Scratch has one more trick up his sleeve that will really teach David a lesson.

Written and directed by newcomer Robert Thompson, Inferno is a warped take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as the devil himself takes our Scrooge-like David on a trip to view various scenes of wreckage created by his own evil life. Eric Hulen stars as David Marquette and does a nice job of portraying the character as a mean-spirited narcissist. He is a perfect sleaze-bag, fully deserving of his trip to Hell. Jon Hoch co-stars as Vincent, David’s tour guide through the tortuous tunnels of the basement, David’s personal vision of Hell. Vincent is funny and quirky, dressed in cargo shorts, flip-flops, and garish Hawaiian shirt and looking more like an attendee at a Jimmy Buffett concert than a demonic force of evil. When one of David’s visions takes them outside into the sun, Vincent even appears with a white stripe of sunscreen across the bridge of his nose! Supporting the main characters are Adrienne Gossman as David’s wife who loves him very much and can’t wait to settle down to make a family and Kayla Crance as Missy, the pretty secretary who also loves David and only wishes to please him.

The 20-minute short is filmed creatively with many unique angles to signify David’s warped world. One of the best effects is the transition from the bright colors of life as depicted in the real world to the faded and washed-out world of David’s death. This first film from Thompson and the newly-formed Fresh Slate Pictures reminds me a bit of The Twilight Zone with its twists and morality play. It is a solid beginning for a filmmaker who should be someone to watch out for in the future.

Inferno is making the festival rounds and has just been accepted into both the Fright Night Film Fest in Louisville, Kentucky, and the MayDay Film Fest in Evansville, Indiana. For more information about Inferno and Fresh Slate Pictures, or to view the trailer for the film, go to www.freshslatepictures.com.