Newly married young couple Nick and Bobby Sue find the start of their life together interrupted when a biker gang kidnaps Bobby Sue. The Devil has unleashed the demonic riders to sacrifice beautiful virgins to him, so Nick must fight if he wants to save his new wife’s soul.
Another month, another faux-grindhouse exploitation throwback. There’s something inherently appealing in the idea of a film being made to purposefully look bad, since many people out there joyfully lap up the shameless trash produced in decades past. The problem is that so-bad-it’s-good is often something that comes about accidentally and to produce something entertainingly bad is harder than you might think, more often than not ending up as so-bad-it’s-worse. At least in terms of visuals, the sleazy aesthetic of All Hell Breaks Loose is perfectly realised. The picture is altered to look like grainy film stock, intentionally bad sound editing abounds and gore effects are wonderfully low-tech and messy; it’s just a shame that the technical prowess on display isn’t matched by the story.
It takes almost half an hour for all the pieces of the plot to be set up, and once in place things proceed in a state of drudging stagnation, largely consisting of Nick being killed by the bikers, only to be resurrected by God (here portrayed as an apparent riff on Sam Elliot in The Big Lebowski) to face them again, only to be killed again then brought back to life again and so on and so forth. This is interspersed with random acts of pointless sadism from the bikers to emphasise the environment of tedious misogyny where men are paragons of machismo and women are prizes to be won in some purgatorial contest of cosmic dick measuring. Yes, this is all supposed to feel ridiculously dated – after all, that’s the whole point of films like this – but unless the histrionics are presented in such a way as to make them at least mildly engaging it becomes difficult care about anything that happens.
Given the prominence the biker gang is given, it seems like we are supposed to perceive them as the most interesting aspect of the film, except they are all so generically thuggish that you discern between them by appearance rather than personality. It’s something of a stretch to ask for relatability when the best thing you can say about a group of people is that none of them are paedophiles or rapists, as if this makes casual murder and mutilation or offering up young women to be the sexual playthings of the Prince of Darkness somehow forgivable in comparison.
God doesn’t come off any more sympathetically, being portrayed as a lazy hypocrite who damns people for doing exactly what he told them and who could easily wipe out the demonic evil in the world if only he could be bothered. While the canonical omnipotence of the Almighty makes his appearance a literal deus ex machina that can prematurely put an end to any story in which he appears, there are far less lazy ways of keeping his intervention out of the narrative. Although given the boredom that the film’s events induce, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JEREMY GARNER / SCREENPLAY: THE VOCABULARIAST / STARRING: NICK FORREST, SARAH KOBEL MARQUETTE, JOSHUA FRAZIER, TODD ROBINSON, JOSEPH SULLIVAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW