Hell and Back is most certainly not a horror film. It’s far too heavy on the action adventure and comedy elements to classify as a horror film. Though it does pull slightly from the horror genre, but only for the aesthetics. I would have liked to see a stronger horror influence on Hell and Back and with its tone and pacing could have used it. That said, I had a great time with this adult comedy and I’m not kidding about the adult part. Because while the stop motion gives this film a child like charm, what’s coming out of the characters mouths, while funny, not for children.
Hell and Back opens in a struggling amusement park. Working in the park are childhood friends Remy (Nick Swardson), Augie (T.J. Miller) and Curt Myers (Rob Riggle). After learning about the park’s dire finical situation Remy goes to see the parks resident psychic, Madame Zonar (Kerri Kenney-Silver). While visiting her, Remey finds a book that has an image of devil crying, causing him to come up with the idea that if people will pay to see an image of Jesus on the wall. Then why wouldn’t people pay to see his arch foe crying like a school girl with a skinned knee. He steals the book and takes it to Augie and Curt to pitch his idea. As he does Remey eats a mint and Curt asks for one. This becomes an argument over mints that leads to an eventual blood oath on the book from Madame Zonar’s. Curt makes the oath that once Remey gives Curt a mint, Curt will give Remey one of his. Which he doesn’t and is instantly sucked into hell via a mystical portal. Fearing for their friend they go follow behind Curt to save him. Augie and Remey are quickly captured and brought before the Devil (Bob Odenkirk). Who has every intention of killing them, until his heavenly crush the angel Barb (Susan Sarandon), who has come looking for the unauthorized mortals within his domain. In an attempt to impress her, the Devil tries to hand the pair over. But learn that they have escaped and calls out a massive hunt for them. The pair become eventually surrounded on the devil gondola and when they’re about to be recaptured they get rescued by a blue skinned demon named Deema (Mila Kunis). After Deema curb stops a demon, quit literally. She forces the pair to show her the way to Orpheus (Danny McBride). Who’s address they have from the devils cell phone that they stole while he was distracted. Though she does agree to help them save Curt, but with his sacrifice drawing near can the rescue him in time?
I really liked the humor in this film. Hell and Back feels like a mash-up between Little Nicky and The Corpse Bride. Which is a very much a good thing as I found the humor in this film to actually be fairly hilarious. Though the repeated fat jokes about Augie did wear thin after a while and the shock value of some of the raunchier jokes lose their impact with repeat exposure.
I really like the aesthetic feel of this film. I love stop motion work and this film has some great uses of the medium. The look and feel of the stop motion pairs wonderfully with the humor and dark atmosphere. Which given that it takes place in hell is pretty dark.
The voice acting is fun, but I think I might have enjoyed it because I’m a fan of the actors and actresses works outside this film. Nick Swardson and Mila Kunis to be exact, though neither deliver any kind of memorable performances. Which actually fits for the rest of the ensemble and cast. Fun, but nothing spectacular.
Final thoughts, I enjoyed the dreamlike feel of Hell and Back, which reminded me of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. But any film with an impressionistic lean reminds me of that film. The jokes are raunchy and fun, but as the same ground is constantly retread with them, they do wear thin and the generic happy ending leaves a lot to be desired. 5/10