Sep 30, 2012


Six friends decide to spend their holiday together and rent a manor house in the countryside where they can leave behind the madness of city life. Once there, they befriend a priest, Father Elia, who lives alone in the adjoining church. Very soon the party mood turns frightening, as strange phenomena, apparently paranormal, begin happening around the group. It soon turns into a nightmare when one of the friends, Giorgio, begins acting as if he is possessed, which the group interprets as being demonic.

While Alessandro, his best friend, tries to find a scientific and rational explanation to the happenings, the other friends appeal to Father Elia for assistance. He feels Giorgio is surely possessed by the devil and tries to exorcise him. But in the end what is happening is beyond their ability to understand and, moreover, their possibility to control. Is Giorgio’s possession the sign of a larger, even more diabolical phenomenon about to envelop the world?

It's difficult to review films that leave you with neither a positive nor negative reaction. It's just as easy to throw heaps of love to a film that works as it is to trash a movie that doesn't. But then there are movies like Back From Hell (formerly known as Ex Infernis) that aren't offensive enough to warrant any kind of laundry list of ways it could've been better, nor is there much of it worth pointing out and complimenting.

But I can try.

First off, that synopsis above, which I pulled from a piece of sales art during the film's festival run, is a little misleading. The friends aren't renting a house, but have accompanied Sara, an architect, who has been contacted about visiting an old monastery to see about its potential for restoration. The structure is very beautiful, old age or not, and the high ceilings and tall doors help it to become a character almost effortlessly.

The interaction amongst the friends never feels forced or scripted. And thankfully the actors playing them, all whose first language is clearly Italian, speak English well enough that it doesn't hinder any of their performances. (I bring that up because foreign productions find English-speaking actors in order to give the film more international appeal, which oftentimes can prove distracting.) There's only one weak actor among the cast, and he spends most of his time behind the camera remaining quiet. Giovanni Guidelli is especially good as Father Elias, whose haunted eyes make you sympathize with the poor, isolated priest who seems to know shit's ready to hit the fan even before the audience does.

Making a possession movie is always going to automatically draw comparisons to The Exorcist. It's unavoidable. Because of this, part of me wants to commend director Leonardo Araneo for avoiding over-the-top special effects or sound editing to make the possessed actually appear possessed. The possession comes only from the abilities of the actor to appear so, intended to make it appear as realistic as possible. In theory, this is a good choice. After all, look at Jennifer Carpenter's performance in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Despite how you might feel about that particular film, her performance as the possessed Emily is creepy and effective, and was accomplished not with special effects, but with the abilities that Carpenter possessed. However, in the case of Back From Hell, this decision creates a problem: It never seems cinematic. And because this is cinema, we need more than an evil smile and some drool.

There are interesting ideas festering within Back From Hell, one especially being that Giorgio goes on record during a heated debate in the first act that God doesn't exist (and through an odd defense of his own beliefs, might even insinuate he is a Scientologist). It is Sara with whom he argues, and her beliefs in God are unwavering, leaving the argument to become quite intense. I bring this up because, from what I have read about possession, those with faith are the ones more susceptible to possession than those without it. If this was a purposeful choice, I'd be curious to know why. Or perhaps it was supposed to be that "irony" thing I've heard so much about.

At times the film's plot feels almost improvised, or cobbled together from footage three times as long as the final running time. There's an unfocused feeling of meandering, as if there was less of a script but more of an outline. "We need to get from Point A to Point B, but we can just wing whatever happens in between," etc. Because of this, it's sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly what is happening or how scared we should be. (Based on the final output, not much.)

Back From Hell is sometimes effective in that way found footage movies are effective by default: A character walks down a dark hallway shining a flashlight in certain rooms, and suddenly there is someone - or something - standing before them. Moments like these are always startling because that's how we as human beings react to something unexpected. So in that regard, Back From Hell provides a few easy scares.

One of the more disturbing subplots features Sara's unborn baby. To spoil this would be to spoil the most shocking moment in the film, so I will refrain. One thing I will say about it's not something I was at all expecting.

Look, could you do a lot worse than Back From Hell? Yes, you sure could. And anything in The Asylum's catalog would prove that almost instantly. Could you do a lot better, too? Yes, you could. But if you consider yourself a fan of the found footage technique, it's worth taking a look; it's low on scares, but high on concept and ideas. 

Oh, and by the way, don't expect anything remotely similar to what you see on the poster to occur during the film. 


  1. This was a piece of shit... everyone involved in this atrocity should be castrated.

  2. woah...calm yourself

  3. This is the fucking worst movie I have ever wasted money on, too put something like that about an unborn baby is fucking sick, I'll know never too purchase sucha shity movie like this company has produced, ps talking tree that just says how shit this is gonna be!!

  4. This film started well. Although not perfect, everything up until the excorcism was kinda "believable". However from that point on, there was no going back. The possessed man sounded like he needed nothing more than a good laxative and the rest of the cast didnt seem to really care too much about what was going on around them. Not enough to leave anyway.

    The plot darted around so much, that it became hard to follow and loads of points were not explained. From being in a building with a traitored angel, the surviving friends finally decide to leave and end up in quarentined village. Why? Who knows. Why did the girl cut out her baby? Who knows. Did the friends care? Did they hell. Why did they dig up the spirits crypt? Who knows! Theres just too many of these to make sense.

    Overall I would tell anyone not to waste their time or money on this film. Load of utter bollocks.