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Where I live now, most everyone eats french fries (among other things) with something called “fry sauce”. I'm pretty sure it's just thousand island dressing without the relish, aka the "house" sauce, on every hamburger, from every fast food place, ever. It's definitely not my thing. And by that I mean- it grosses me the fuck out. It's like mayonnaise had a pink, zesty offspring, and I am not down. No matter what I think, here in the cultural vacuum of Southern Utah, it is the standard. Speaking of my least favorite condiment, I have seen similar phenomenon more east, where they take a glob of mayo with each meal, which was kind of hard to watch. In the parts of California I lived in they upheld ranch as the cover-all dressing of choice, which was still too pale and milky for my taste. I need to spend more time in hot sauce regions. While I can’t hang with the white sauce obsessed, I have learned to cope, to save face. Different places have different shit going on when it comes to food, customs and most importantly manners. I thought everyone wanted to fight me my first month here in the Utah desert. In Central California, if someone stares at you unabashedly at walmart, it usually comes to some kind of violent head before you can get your tv dinners picked out. To my surprise (and annoyance), it’s well within local etiquette to thoroughly eye-fuck complete strangers while they decide on cereal in this location. Where my family lives in Massachusetts, everyone tips- for fucking everything. They tip in the Dairy Queen drive through, and the teenager at the window expects it. To them, in that community, it is rude not to tip someone who helps you out in any degree, but good luck getting gratuity at your fast food job in southern Utah. Here, the patrons pull out a calculator and crunch out a tip at 15% to the penny (minus any complaints), even in those designated tipping situations. The rules to being polite, upstanding and normal differ greatly from place to place, even inside a single country or state. It's interesting as fuck, but it can be a hazard. It pays to be attentive to cues, respect the cultural habits(or at least try not to wince while they are looking), and if possible just not be a douchebag during travel. Not enraging the locals is usually rule number one, especially the more rural areas and even if you are just passing through. Committing the wrong faux-pas, in the right place, could get you fucked up and/or disposed of- like the car-full of tragically ineffective ambassadors in Exit to Hell (2013).
We first meet our scrappy main characters in a colorful strip club. Two members of the group work there, with Jenna (Tiffany Shepis) as a dancer and Travis (Dustin Leighton) unenthusiastically providing tunes as a DJ. After Jenna’s brother, Randy (Owen Conway), shows up for some harassment, and she has gone through her full routine, the gang reveals that their employment at the club has been a ruse all along and proceeds to rob the place. The plucky gang of young criminals, which also includes Tasha (Taryn Maxximillian Dafoe), dispatch several patrons and collect the stash of dough the mob is laundering through the establishment. Once on the freeway, their plan is to head to Mexico and split up due to some chemistry issues involving Travis, the self styled leader’s grumpy ass attitude and Randy's drug problem. There is some standard post robbery tension along the way. Then everybody fights for a little while and falls asleep. This leaves the coming-down junkie, Randy, in charge of navigating and manning the wheel. He surprisingly ends up driving in the wrong direction, taking them deep along an unknown route towards the sweaty small town of Redstone. At the same time, unbeknownst to the gang, back in the city the strip club owner and lower mob boss, Yakov(Jason Spisak), is starting to make ground in his pursuit and begins to make his way to their location. When the rest of the crew in the car wakes up, they are not only lost but also in need of gas. Forced to stop, they pull into the only foreseeable gas station. Like most rural desert towns, it's pretty fucking strange from the get-go, but shit gets drastically worse after the douchey kids start fucking with the gas station clerk/local lighting rod (Dan Higgins). In contrast to their beliefs on cleanliness or regular dusting, this town takes its manners pretty seriously, and the law is upheld by the town constable, Sheriff Sickle(Kane Hodder). Unfortunately for the millennial bandits, threatening the town’s single shop owner is a crime in Redstone. The wholesome and very religious Sickle is on the case, and he sees his work in justice as not only a job but a passion, as well as a source of protein. The gangster Yakov finds his way to town sooner or later, and everyone has old timey slice of good christian laced disembowelment.
The plot is effectively kept simple, which allows for a sporadic nature without confusion. The film opens with almost a full helping of what's to come, which is really all this story needs to set the stage. It’s getting the audience to the action as quick as possible, without really taking a break to give unnecessary details, just hinting at them instead. It works without padded exposition as, even though there is some originality in the bloody and enjoyable flick, most of its elements will be pretty familiar to genre fans. Even with its quick pacing and fill in the blanks writing style, you get the feeling each element and character has a backstory or origin of its own. Some of the dialogue is silly but nothing out of normal for the genre, and never does it take from the entertainment value. There were little details and call-backs, I'm sure a few I didn't catch. I always enjoy the religious-nut angle, and the insane preacher on the radio bit that accompanied some of the torture rack scenes was fun. It kind of had a film within a film thing going on, with everyone watching the same goofy splatter movie on tv ( I guess it's an earlier short film by the director). The movie shifts gears a little in the middle, going from morbid crime drama into slasher, and I can't help but feel it takes a card out of the From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) deck in this regard. The first half being a group of dramatic and talkative criminals who are then thrown into a horror film. The second half has a hint of a 90s Chainsaw Massacre sequel taste to it but is definitely the product of post Grindhouse™ low budget film-making. Its attempt at abrupt surprise falls a little flat, and might be a little misplaced but, if anything, gives its cynical, blunt comedy spirit authenticity. I enjoyed the epilogue and would love to see another outing of the cannibal small town sheriff’s religious community, on their quest for moral supremacy and fine meats. 
It makes use of fake film defects and reel damage for effect. I, personally, have had a little too much of the b-movie pretending to be a retro b-movie to hide the fact that it’s a modern b-movie schtick. This flick, luckily, instead uses it more as an obvious style choice and less a last minute filter to hide blemishes. It has a less tacked on feel, and it serves to help keep pacing rapid. At its most extreme, the effect is mostly retained for segways, setting moods and silly intros, more in line with the way a television program will utilize a theme and music. The coloring on the picture changes, depending on the location of a scene, is sometimes borderline sepia. There are some stand out props that contrast against the color sets and almost give the dusty situation a 50’s comic book feel. It comes complete with some nice gore, when it doesn't go too far into “grindhouse” filter mode (I assume that has something to do with resources in most cases) and a fair amount of nudity. The soundtrack gets a little stale in parts, but I dig the nu-metal guitars and don't give a fuck what anybody says. While definitely not a huge production, it works its budget wisely and comes out pretty fucking solid on most levels. 
Kane Hodder plays the sheriff Sickle. He is always great, even in shitty movies and fucking awesome when he is cast right. He is fucking Kane Hodder (I have talked about my love before). I mean, the man is everyone's favorite Jason, despite being in some people's least favorite Friday the 13th movies. The part plays off his more every man style vs. trying to match the madness of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre character. It ends up working really well. In my experience his portrayal of the small town authority figure is on the money, minus the cannibalism(as far as I know). Tiffany Shepis plays the would be final girl, Jenna. She is another cult favorite who does great even in the worst of shit films and is well picked. She kicks somebody's eye out with a high heel at one point and is fun to watch as always. Shepis is well practiced in the horror genre and has no problem with the fast paced action stuff in the earlier scenes. The rest of her gang was another story, mostly terrible save for the fact that it looked like someone was smacking Owen Conway in the face in between scenes to make his eyes puffy. In any case, it wasn't an issue as the scripted dialog was written to work on some level with the actor's ability, as far as I could tell. The extremely realistic inhabitants of Redstone were pretty much perfect. Of note--Dan Higgins as the store clerk/human punching bag, who did a great but grotesque job of bleeding all over the place and saying creepy hillbilly shit. The film also involved a short subplot involving veteran actress/director Rena Riffel as Travis’s love interest.
Exit into Hell (AKA Sickle) is a frantic, bloody, road trip of a self-aware b-movie. It finds a way to make some shout-outs to its influences, without losing its own identity or becoming completely tongue in cheek. It's not a super intelligent or wholly unique outing, but the whole casserole of ideas is just grimy, gory and mean-spirited enough to make for a fun fucking watch in my opinion. Plus, there is a good message somewhere in this movie about keeping it cool when away from home, as customs and manners differ from place to place drastically. Every spot on the map has it's own favorite condiment, social contract or style of justice administration. I can tell you from my own desert travels that towns a lot like Redstone exist. The role of unchecked small town authority in dirty ass, forgotten homesteads is very real, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few of them had some pretty fucked up barbecue recipes.
1h 21min | 2013
 Director: Robert Conway
Writers: Robert Conway


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