The Dark Backward

"Weak"

The Dark Backward Review


Writer/director Adam Rifkin has had an odd Hollywood career. While he's best known for penning late-'90s kid-friendly fare like Mouse Hunt and the surprisingly dark Small Soldiers, Rifkin has been in the business since the late-'80s and has written and directed everything from a sex comedy spoof (The Invisible Maniac) to a gritty urban crime flick (Night at the Golden Eagle). Despite his wandering interests, all of Rifkin's material has a goofy, edgy side. And he's written (and directed) nothing edgier or kookier than 1991's The Dark Backward.

Rifkin wrote the film when he was 19 and probably had it sitting in his proverbial "back pocket" just waiting for the day he had enough clout and experience to get it made. Judd Nelson (great when playing bizarro characters) stars as Marty Malt, a garbage man who moonlights as a terrible stand up comedian. His pal Gus (the seemingly ubiquitous Bill Paxton -- was he in every quirky '90s flick?) thinks Marty's actually pretty funny, but he's really the only one. Worse than Marty's shtick are his attempts at romancing Rosarita (Lara Flynn Boyle).

Things change, however, when a gross lump on Marty's back grows into an arm. Now a certifiable freak, Marty is wooed by Jackie Chrome (Wayne Newton), a sleazebag agent eager to exploit Marty's third appendage. Jackie teams up with Dirk Delta (Rob Lowe, buried in prosthetics), a talent scout, and they get Marty a gig on television. Let the freak fireworks fly!

It's not really clear what Rifkin is trying to do here. Clearly it's a satire of the film industry, highlighting the parasites clinging to the underbelly of the Hollywood circuit. And yeah, it's probably a critique of '90s L.A. (the place has never looked as smarmy as it does here). But mostly The Dark Backward is just a showcase for Rifkin's riff on the outlandish. In addition to Marty's atrocious jokes, we're treated to corpse licking, leisure suits, accordion playing, sex with grossly obese women and a collection of the ugliest human beings this side of the monks in The Name of the Rose. As if all these weird details weren't enough, each and every actor seems to be outdoing the other in over-the-top theatrics. But Bill Paxton clearly takes the cake, his performance is so jarring, so revolting, it's beyond comprehension.

The Dark Backward has its fans. Rabid fans, in fact. And if there was ever a film developed solely for a cult audience, it's this one. Maybe that's part of the problem. Rifkin has the demented vision required to make the flick work, but he pushes it so far into such harsh territory that the sick kicks become tedious. And worse, they just become too off-putting.



The Dark Backward

Facts and Figures

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 9th March 1991

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 45%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 5.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Ron Diamond

Starring: as Marty Malt, as Gus, as Dirk Delta, as Jackie Chrome


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