By Steve Anderson | October 14, 2005

So what we have here is “an undead hillbilly ghost story”. Joe and Fletcher go out for some hunting when they run across a young woman getting attacked in true Deliverance fashion, and so Joe and Fletcher step in. Joe is killed in the fighting, and Fletcher critically wounded, until he reaches the steps of the Campbell house. They nurse him back to health, and all looks well for Fletcher…until he discovers in a truly urban legend campfire tale fashion that the Campbells haven’t been living the high life lately.

They’ve been dead for fifty years.

The irony is, I haven’t given anything away by telling you that. The back of the box is going to tell you the exact same thing.

Now, leave it to Troma to do something bizarre with its opening sequence. Before the movie even starts, we get an advertisement for the “Make Your Own Damn Movie” DVD box set. Based on the book of the same name, “Make Your Own Damn Movie” apparently (I haven’t actually seen the DVDs nor read the book—hint, Troma, hint!) describes in some detail the process of making a movie, from financing clear up to distribution.

And the first couple minutes are going to feature this truly awful synthesizer music. I heard Joel and the Bots make fun of stuff like this back when Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was still on.

Something is very strange about the engineering of the movie. There is something very wrong, I think at the post-production level. At several points in the movie, the footage almost seems to “jump” from one step to another. In some cases, it even subtly rewinds—a person starts out bent over and straightens up will suddenly, without warning, be seen straightening up again. A person will swat at a tree branch only to suddenly reverse course and swat at that very same tree branch a second time. A good example of this is at the fifteen minute thirty second mark as Fletcher is coming down a hill.

“No Way Back” is really rather unconventional, and it’s probably not what you were expecting from a Troma release. First off, there are no naked actresses. There’s not a whole lot of gore. And funny bits are few and far between. And yet, this clear departure from the wild, rollicking days of the “Toxic Avenger” saga and “Fat Guy Goes Schizoid!” is not entirely unwelcome. While the dramatic nature of the proceedings, and the calm, almost reflective overall tone of “No Way Back” may not be for everyone (it certainly isn’t my cup of tea), those who enjoy a more dramatic movie will probably be renting a Troma film for the first time ever.

My interest picked up, however, about the forty five minute mark as Fletcher brings modern archaic engineering (an aqueduct system) to the Campbell lands. It was an extremely clever design, made from bits of old board, and I’m astonished that this was included. You never find viable engineering suggestions in Troma films. Never.

The ending is, after what all we had seen before, sort of a downer and yet at the same time oddly fitting as the Campbells take on their worst enemies, and Fletcher comes into his own.

The special features include a behind the scenes featurette, interviews with Campbell Scott, Morgan Sloane and Michael Bordon, commentary tracks, a lesson from the “Make Your Own Damn Movie!” series, a PSA for the Tromadance film festival, an ad for their web site, and trailers for “Pure Blood”, “Mad Dog Morgan”, “The Children”, and “Parts of the Family” which prove that Troma isn’t dead by a long shot.

All in all, “No Way Back” is a sterling example of what Troma can do if given the opportunity. “No Way Back” is a masterpiece of dramatic styling, with action and romance carefully intermingled into its drama.

And I had never thought I’d be using the words “Masterpiece” and “Troma” in the same sentence.

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