G-Men From Hell (2000) — Damned FBI agents work to escape punishment

“I doubt Mr. Hoover could fill a towel like that.”

Drew’s rating: When the best quote they could find for the front cover is by the creator of the characters, that’s… usually not a good sign.

Drew’s review: One thing I’ve noticed about cult films: by and large, their titles are fairly straightforward. Not so a lot of mainstream or high-concept movies that pursue inscrutability these days… good they may be, but I dare you to tell me what Traffic, Crash, Fracture, or Sideways are about just from their titles. But with certain notable Breakfast Club exceptions, cult movies tell you what you’re getting up front. Howard the Duck? Probably about a duck. Named Howard. Likewise, Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman could only ever be a Calvin & Hobbes collection or a schlocky horror movie. And G-Men From Hell? Well…

Mike Mattress (Tate Donovan) and Dean Crept (William Forsythe) are everything you don’t want in your federal agents: self-serving, condescending, and crooked as a three-dollar bill. So when a mob double-cross wipes them out, it’s a cinch that their “just reward” doesn’t involve cumulus clouds and stringed instruments. Not digging the local scenery, the pair escape back to Earth (who knew it was so easy?) and open a detective agency in hopes of doing enough good deeds to earn their way into heaven. But the Devil (Robert Goulet) has other ideas, and when their first case, protecting rich socialite Gloria Lake (Vanessa Angel), results in the death of her husband, Mattress and Crept are under the gun to dodge Beelzebub, clear their names, and get to the root of the mystery. Because nothing says “good deeds” like getting embroiled in a murder scandal.

I’ll confess, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to review this one. The acting is strictly B-list (at best), each actor seemingly competing to see who can be more over the top. I’ll give Vanessa Angel the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant to play Gloria as an oddly-voiced, perturbing dolt, because the alternative is that she’s the worst actress to ever appear in anything, and yes I’m including your third grade production of Peter Pan. (Dynamite Tinkerbell, by the way.) The special effects are laughable — I know it’s a shoestring budget, but it honestly would have been more effective to cut right from Mattress and Crept in hell to a white sheet of paper saying “and then they teleported into a woman’s bathtub.” If someone gets shot, don’t expect to see the wound appear (hey, dye packs are expensive) when it’s easier to jump from an image of the gun to the person falling to the floor, blood all around. And the final reveal of the murderer may confuse you… I don’t suggest trying to figure it out ahead of time, Holmes.

And yet, I keep coming back to the question: is it really fair to criticize those things by normal moviegoer standards when they’re exactly what the discerning cult fan is looking for? Your average person is liable to wonder, “Why is there a random guy running around in a cheetah costume who contributes nothing to the plot?” Whereas cultists would voice a hearty “Brilliant! Extraneous Cheetah Men should come standard in all films!” Plus, the comic fan in me loves how zany and out-there the movie is. Mike Allred is not the dude you put on ordinary, by-the-book superhero titles, he’s the one you hire to get funky and surreal with bright, shiny colors and exaggerated reactions and situations. I don’t think that approach necessarily works in live action, I’d much rather have seen this story animated, but points for trying.

Beyond that, some of the acting is okay. Donovan and Forsythe are effective at conveying just how sleazy the G-Men are, even when trying to do good… let’s face it, there’s a reason they went to hell in the first place. I love the opening — using the comic pages as a prologue is a great stylistic choice. Speaking of which, the original comic was creepy, but there’s something about seeing the story play out in vibrant four-color goodness that lessens the macabre elements. The movie, on the other hand, isn’t gruesome but does feel just slightly dirty, like it touched you in an inappropriate place. (Of course, for some of you that may be more incentive than deterrent…)

There are many films that can be enjoyed equally by both cult and mainstream viewers. This is not one of them. If you’re someone who raises a scornful or incredulous eyebrow at the thought of living hand puppets, men dressed in cheetah costumes, and demons walking around with the moniker “Weenie Man,” this movie and you are not meant to be. But if you have never seen an MST3K movie you didn’t like, or if your DVD collection contains copies of both C.H.U.D. and Army of Darkness, then G-Men From Hell might be right up your alley. Proceed at your own risk… but if you do, may it be everything your culty little heart desires.

Didja notice?

  • Hell looks an awful lot like an S&M; place I saw once. On C.S.I., I mean.
  • How does Crept know that a car bomb killed his family if he died before it happened and they didn’t go to hell?
  • And when did Crept “find” their new office when he just got back to Earth that afternoon? They have real estate listings in the Pit?
  • Gary Busey with a mullet. Lord have mercy.
  • I imagine all women who take jobs with moving companies wear low-cut blouses, skirts, and high heels underneath their uniforms.
  • But then, I have a vivid imagination.
  • You know, I’ll bet a lot of butlers get beaten up accidentally. Dangerous profession.
  • Satan does the tired old “swirl your cape around yourself, then disappear” trick.

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