Here’s another truly bizarre flick for the more adventurous cinephiles among you. It’s really sleazy and really gross — actually, there’s a bit of necrophilia within the first 10 minutes of this nausea-inducing satire — but it’s also really uniquely surreal, offering viewers a compound fracture-level break from the typical Hollywood/Cable TV fare that seems to assault us from almost every mainstream media format these days. Plus, it has actors like Bill Paxton, James Caan, Rob Lowe, Wayne Newton, and Lara Flynn Boyle cast in absolutely bonkers roles. And it features a scene with a human xylophone.
I just want to repeat that once: “A human xylophone.”
The Dark Backward’s rather dark narrative revolves around Judd Nelson’s character, who is an unspeakably awkward — and undeniably awful — standup comic in a dreary, dystopian reality, in which all billboards tout absurd products such as Pork Juice, Weaselroni, and Squeezable Bacon. When a third arm suddenly sprouts from the middle of his back, his fellow garbageman (and only friend) — played by the late, great Bill Paxton, who truly turned up to 11 for this particular role — augments his comedy act to highlight the grotesque, enigmatic appendage and, with the help of an unscrupulous talent agent — played by Newton — they achieve a moderate amount of success.
The movie, written and directed by Adam Rifkin, is wonderfully shot — from beginning to end — with brilliant colors and mind-boggling sets, and it’s consistent tone is both deliciously subversive and decidedly punk rock. (Imagine if Repo Man  had been co-directed by John Waters and David Lynch [and maybe Jeunet & Caro for good measure], resulting in something like How to Get Ahead in Advertising … except not nearly as good.) The Dark Backward is raunchy fun — and it takes viewers quite far off the beaten path — but it never even attempts to transcend its farcical nature or toy with any motifs that are even slightly cerebral.
It’s enjoyable if you have a strong stomach and a pitch black sense of humor but, ultimately, it’s immature and forgettable. I’d give it three pot leafs out of five for its badass, hand-drawn opening credit sequence alone, though: