Director(s); Tom Gianas, Ross Shuman
A Nightmare Before Christmas was an outstanding feat somehow very successfully melding Halloween, Christmas, the bizarre, hilarity and mass appeal together in one tale. In all honesty I can appreciate this as a new age timeless classic. Tim Burton in my opinion is a modern day cinematic genius. Enough said.
Another feature I got excited about, after viewing numerous trailers, was 9 (from 2009) a film in which rag dolls work together in a post apocalyptic world as they search for a key to humanity's salvation. It doesn't sound that good, in fact it sounds somewhat silly, however it was very entertaining and in all honesty probably not for young children as it contained numerous action scenes dripping with dark atmosphere and a feeling of dread.
Of course there's a handful more. I still enjoy the humor and vibe associated with Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and the frenetic energy, feel and excellent characters and their physical realizations (based on the Roald Dahl book I read numerous times as a child) in Fantastic Mr. Fox featuring the voice talents of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray.
Though to be honest when I think claymation (of a more adult nature) one thing immediately comes to the forefront of my skull. Namely the ending scene to the original Evil Dead movie. The vivid and chilling transformation/destruction of a demonic entity. When I first witnessed the sheer raw brilliance of this scene I was quite young and very impressionable, suffice it to say it forever shaped my tastes and yearnings for grisliness for years to come.
Does it live up to it's hype, the promise of the blurb on it's cover?
Is it worthy of an R rating?
The answer to each of these questions is an outstanding YES!
The humor throughout this feature is about as blue as it can possibly be without treading heavily into X rated territory, the rating that's the ultimate kiss of death for any distributor and producers wanting to make even a small portion of their investment back.
In my opinion the humor in Hell and Back is highly effective though brash, lewd, crude, disgusting, vile and one hundred percent not adherent to the rules of what society deems politically correct (whatever that might be). I wholeheartedly enjoyed every moment (if truth be told I'm a tad, alright more than a little, jaded) especially more so since many of my favorite comedians head the voice talent list.
Of interest is Brian Posehn who voices a 'carny' (a journeyman carnival barker) to a tee his interactions with Remy a much younger apathetic co worker, voiced by Nick Swardson, are priceless. Again I must emphasis that this isn't a movie for the kiddies lest you wish to explain what a 'dildo' (no matter it's size) and a moist vagina are.
It doesn't stop there suffice it to say for fear of having your children scare their teacher (and most probably have you forthwith reported to the local authorities) with various assorted soundbites featured within the ninety minutes this feature runs you really aught not let them witness this for either a minute or it's entirety.
In a nutshell the story is as follows.
Remy, Augie (voiced by TJ Miller) and Curt (voiced by Rob Riggle better known as the coach, Mr Walters, in 21 Jump Street) are three life long friends. A nonsensical blood pact whisks Curt to Hell for punishment (a sacrificial pomp and circumstance affair in fact) where he meets and befriends the Devil himself, Bob Odenkirk.
Appreciatively the hilarity flows non stop throughout Hell and Back's entire length (have I mentioned that it's close to ninety minutes, one hell of a feat and treat for any animated feature to run). Touching upon the perils of traipsing through a forest of horny trees (wait what-?) without a chaperone one of which voiced by Archer himself H. Jon Bejamin, hailing the Devil with appropriate monikers that seeth with badassery but yet aren't too mean, the similarities of a torture device and a 'simian', how much of an impact the 'N' word still has (even within the boundaries of the underworld) and various under-utilized aps on Augie's smart phone (this only leaves me wondering what coverage he has, as mine is utter schiite!) Hell and Back delivers in aces where most live action productions even fear to tread.
Hell and Back even touches upon what many might not even perceive as hellish punishments in an eternity thwart with the same for those that are worthy of such. A never ending multitude of 'lost souls' are tormented not by gruesome bloodthirsty means but with everyday occurrences, scenarios that do nothing but niggle and annoy on a reoccurring basis. The voice of the 'lost souls' is provided by Jay Johnson, each being amorphous looking exactly the same, the tone is peevish but yet totally understanding of it's predicament where nothing is ever, ever going to change.
Clever, ingenious writing and various vivid characters with instantly recognizable unique voice talents give this feature that extra added something to make it both unforgettable, in my opinion remarkable and a movie the viewer is sure to talk about for days afterwards.
Certainly not for the squeamish, positively not for those with conservative ideals and without any doubts whatsoever not for those that regularly visit an institution boasting stained glass windows on the weekends. Hell and Back is however highly recommended (by me) for those that enjoy humor of the decidedly darker/bluer kind, those few of us left that have a gaping wide open mind (somewhat reminiscent of Derek after a viciously horrific cliff side 'slip' in Bad Taste, where's that belt gone?) and those that more than slightly adore a modicum of silliness every once in a while.
A grand achievement that entertains for it's entire length.
I only wonder how long this feature took to come to completion as claymation is at best tedious, with mere seconds of footage taking hours perhaps days to capture.
A delight to view and worth every damn second in my opinion.