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Hell House (2001)

Director: George Whittenburg Ratliff, George Ratliff, George Ratliff
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Plexifilm
Genre: Documentary, Religion
Running Time: 86 min.
Languages: English
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There's hardly a community in America does doesn't offer some sort of a spook show or haunted house for kids during the Hallowe'en season, but the Hell House, sponsored by the Trinity Assembly of God Church in Dallas, TX, is something a bit different -- rather than scaring kids with folks dressed up as ghosts of vampires, the Hell House offers bizarre performance pieces in which youngsters are offered a glimpse of the fates church elders believe will await them if they stray from the path of a strict Christian life. The skits include tales of a gay man dying of AIDS-related illnesses, a woman bleeding to death after an abortion, a teenage girl who is date raped after being fed drugs at a rave party, and Satanists performing a human sacrifice. Hell House is a documentary that examines the "Hell House" phenomenon (which has inspired a large number of imitators around the country, and has been parodied on television shows such as King of the Hill and The Simpsons), offering a look at the preparations that go into the annual presentation and a glimpse into the lives of the people who stage and perform the cautionary fables. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

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GreenCine Member Reviews

Hell is right here, in this movie by talltale March 7, 2005 - 5:40 AM PST
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
If hell is "other people," as Sartre said, sitting through "Hell House" (the documentary about a Christian church that uses Halloween-type scares to convince young folk to choose Jesus) would seem to bear this out. Director George Ratliff decides not to make judgments (except perhaps in the single moment of humor that occurs near the very end--as one of the leaders talks about the "rapture"), which leaves that job up to us viewers. Those who share the fundamentalist dogma espoused here should love the film. Others will cringe.

One of the teachers here notes the first rule of his class: Ask Questions. The second is Don't Ask Dumb Questions, but he doesn't care to elaborate on what the difference might be. Later on, some non-believers do question, but watching this scene is depressing because neither side is able to articulate very well, nor is either likely to be able to truly listen or hear. Forgiveness is a basis of the Christian religion, yet the church and its leaders shown here cannot conceive of what this might really mean for sinners. Made in 2001, the movie told us a lot about where our country was headed in the next few years. Depressing stuff all around, this is yet another canny, sad demonstration of how fundamentalism--in this case Christian, but it could as well be Muslim or Jewish--brainwashes and helps destroy the very lives it claims to save. Misshaped's review (above, or maybe below) nails this movie very nicely.

Jesus is coming back... and he's coming for his bride by Misshaped June 12, 2004 - 8:21 PM PDT
6 out of 6 members found this review helpful
I've heard of hell houses...this wasn't a surprise to me that they existed. I know how people are when their convictions are strong and they believe 100% in what they are doing. The people of Trinity Assembly who put on the hell house believe it's the best way to get people to accept Jesus into their lives...scaring the hell out of them!

The part of the movie that actually surprised me was the total joy felt by the kids and parents when they were chosen to play the part of "abortion girl", "suicide girl" or "date-rape guy". Yes just like a school play, they auditioned for these parts in the hell house. Nobody seemed to want to play an angel...weird.

Also, there are some quotes from this film that are darn right S C A R Y !!

"Jesus is coming back and he's coming for his bride." was uttered by one young girl. Please somebody tell me what does that mean?! Is this in the Bible, because it's freaking me out.

"I'd like to thank my rapists." cheered a girl who played a rape victim at a rave. She told the camera that she wasn't sure what it would be like to be "raped" but it ended up being fun. I didn't know if I should laugh or scream in horror.

How about the dad that said to his daughter, "Boy, I hope I get Domestic Violence this year"?

How about a pentagram spray painted on one of the sets that ends up as a Star of David? Are you scared yet?

I really think that the people of Trinity Assembly believe they are doing God's work. But as they say, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.99)
125 Votes
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