Director: Timothy A. Chey
Writers: Timothy A. Chey, Victor G. Chey, W. Thomas
Stars: John Terrell, Aaron Groben, Harry Goodwins
I’ve been enjoying a multitude of faith-based movies from director Timothy A. Chey recently, including “20 Minutes,” “Slamma Jamma” and the very timely “Interview with the Antichrist.” But I must say that, after seeing one of his most recent productions, “Journey to Hell”, this may be one of the most impressive. It is based on the best-selling classic novel of the same name.
The film opens with a group of surfers on a Los Angeles beach looking for their missing friend, Shane Badman (John Terrell). Next thing we know, Shane is being rushed to the local hospital emergency room. But it is too late: he has drowned. We see his wife, Hannah (Emilie Soghomonian), and friends mourn him at his funeral, and then suddenly we’re transported to Hell, where Shane’s soul is awakening. He can’t believe he’s really there and instead thinks he’s in some kind of nightmare. Talk about a rude awakening.
We then go back in time several days to see Shane’s life before his fateful surfing accident. He has just been promoted to managing partner at a major equity firm after rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. From the outside, you could tell that Shane has everything one would want in life: a beautiful and loving wife, a posh mansion (in the Hollywood Hills no less), 10 cars, and a circle of friends.
However, the day after his promotion, Hannah approaches Shane because he seems distraught. When she questions him about his bad mood, he comments, “I’ve worked my whole life for this moment, but I’m still not happy.” In fact, Shane goes on to say that the promotion isn’t enough and that he still wants more, but he’s not sure what that “more” is. When Hannah suggests using some of his disposable income to serve the Lord, he doesn’t mind. He is too busy for such petty matters (although he does have time to hang out with his friends).
When Hannah manages to drag Shane into church, the leader of her congregation, Pastor Bill (Jeffrey Grinel, who looks like a real-life pastor), tends to talk about hell during his sermons. Pastor Bill mentions that many Christians don’t believe in hell (probably most of them) and part of it has to do with not fully accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Another reason is that they want to be the ones who make the decisions, the ones in control, instead of handing all of that over to Jesus. During these services, Shane makes sarcastic comments under his breath to Hannah, complaining about the pastor’s sermons, or constantly rolls his eyes.
The movie jumps back and forth in time, alternating between Shane’s lavish lifestyle and his suffering in hell (nothing gory or bloody, though). Every time we see him in Hell, he meets other bad people who have been doomed to be there for all eternity, like Hitler, Mao Tse-Tung (played hilariously by Chey), and the Zodiac Killer, or is reminded of why. he is there and what he did wrong by one of the demons who supervises the crowd of unlucky ones.
Hannah desperately tries to communicate with Shane, such as reminding him that if he would obey God and exemplify the fruits of the soul, such as kindness, patience, kindness, and self-control, she might find that “more” that he is. searching. But for Shane, simply gaining as much wealth as he can equates to being “blessed by God,” and that material things equate to godhood. When Hannah mentions that “we’re in a real spiritual battle right now and most Christians don’t even realize it,” he simply dismisses her and leaves. Will Shane change his spiritual perspective and get a second chance, even from the depths of Hell?