director Adam Rifkin
From the shadowy depths of the psyche of the early Nineties comes The Dark Backward. It’s a garbage world dystopia of filthy streets and filthy homes and even filthy, sweaty protagonists. Judd Nelson plays against type as Marty Malt, a nebbish dweeb with a dream of stand-up comedic genius (perhaps one of the most Nineties aspect of the film).
Sadly, Marty is only funny is a deadpan not funny, semi-surreal sort of way, which no one but his wingman, Gus (Bill Paxton RIP) ever laughs at (and even then, only when he’s really concentrating.) When Marty begins to grow an arm out of the middle of his back, his freakshow appearance scores him opportunities even though his general appeal seems to remain in the gutter.
The Dark Backward is a pre-fab cult film, one whose cult following has had years to grow. On initial release, its oddities seemed strained. Embodied perhaps in Paxton’s volume 11 performance of wackiness, pushing so hard to be funny and weird.
Wayne Newton is spot-on as the sleazy agent, Jackie Chrome, while Lara Flynn Boyle seems kind of wasted in her bit.
While it definitely has its charms, it’s more of a semi-classic than a full classic.