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  • Hellhouse [2001] [DVD] [2002]
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Hellhouse [2001] [DVD] [2002]

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Hell Houses are the Pentecostal Church's answer to a haunted house. These houses of horror don't rely on the traditional gimmicks of ghosts and goblins. Instead they recreate scenes that graphically depict such modern day evils as botched abortions, AIDS-related deaths, fatal drunk driving crashes, date rapes and drug-induced suicides. With full behind-the-scenes access, this documentary examines why this small town church has resorted to such graphic means of saving souls and allows us a brief glimpse of what they believe they are saving us from.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 39 reviews
62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
Former Cast Member 29 Dec. 2004
By John Doe - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I spent ten years working various scenes at the Trinity Church Hellhouse. Yes, it is a bit campy, and yes, it is often over the top, but I can say that the people are well intentioned, just a bit off target. I attended Trinity Church from birth until I was 22 years old. I do not attend their anymore because of the close-minded attitude that is prevalant in this documentary. I stopped doing HellHouse when they added the decision room my last year. I just felt it was an un-biblical scare tactic. I now feel that way about the entire operation. The worst feeling I get is knowing the young teenagers are blindly following the leadership without doing any research themselves. I know because I was once one of them. I have found that a growing number of former Trinity Youth Group members my age do not attend there for the same reasons I listed above. This movie will open your eyes to the way teens are herded like cattle in fundamentalist Christian Churches.
53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Ignorance on Parade 9 April 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: DVD
This is an admirably objective and well-made film, which chronicles the production of an evangelical Christian church's Halloween Hell House, an annual attraction that attempts to win souls for the church by trying to scare people with silly and misinformed portrayals of the horrors of secular life. In their attempt to construct an "occult" scene, church members actually paint a Star of David on the floor because they have no idea what a pentagram looks like, and they base their color scheme on the advice of a "warlock" who came to the Hell House some years before. No pagan or witch calls himself a warlock unless he's gotten all his information on the topic from watching "Charmed," which these churchgoers would know if they bothered to put any effort into research at all. Ignorance abounds here, from the cretinous portrayal of homosexuality as a result of childhood sexual abuse to the epic misrepresentation of the abortion pill RU-486. Throughout each revolting little playlet, the cardboard characters are taunted by a cackling Satan character who makes it sound like they deserve what they're getting and wouldn't be suffering if they'd had the correct beliefs. One gets the feeling that this church is pleased as punch to see them go to hell, and the Satan character conveys this with real glee. This kind of nastiness and cynicism has no place in a religion supposedly built on love. I was glad to see scenes of audience members giggling at all the hoary amateur dramatics, but the awful thing is that Hell Houses across the country do win converts through these showcases of bigotry and delusion. Maybe somebody should put on a Fundamentalism House. Now that would be scary.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Turning the Good News into Bad News 21 Mar. 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: DVD
I grew up in an evangelical church where scare tactics and repeated warnings that Jesus' return was imminent were used to keep you on the straight and narrow path.
I thought the scene where the leader confronts a group of offended teenagers who obviously didn't appreciate that rather black and white portrayal of life, and made no bones about it. As much as I agree with a theology that places Jesus at the center of life, I found myself agreeing more with those that took offense than to the leadership of this church that doesn't seem to realize what the implications of what they're doing really are.
I wonder how the members of this group would feel if there was a similar house set up that portrayed the worst aspects of church life and scared people away from every coming to church. How about a room where a Sunday school teacher is found out for cheating on his wife, or an authoritarian pastor steamrolls over the life of one of his parishioners or misappropriates church funds? How about seeing the fallout that comes after one of these Pentecostal-type pastors intimates that he knows the date of the Second Coming? How about a room where a priest is buggering an altar boy? I wonder what the reaction to that would be?
I really wonder sometimes if God appreciates his calling card being offered in the guise of fearmongering and extremism. I can think of nothing better than people having God encounters; but I am thinking that if the impulse is fear and not love, then the encounter is dimmed if not tarnished altogether. My gut feeling is that people who get scared into the kingdom are spiritual parapalegics; yes, they are in the door but they are forced to get around in wheelchairs.
Jesus... save us from your followers...
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Christian Extortion At It's Worst 29 Feb. 2004
By Corgilover - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating look at the evangelical world of black and white, good and evil. With no tolerance, or room for ambiguity in their thoughts, the "folks" at Trinity Church explain all the of life's complexities with one simple creed, it's the work of the devil. One simple-minded soul explains, "this is the worst the world has ever been." Apparently the poor dear has never heard of the plague, witch trials, or other tortured times when the religion ruled the world. I suppose they didn't teach those things at the Trinity school. The most frightening part of this documentary is when young children, after being subjected to scenes that relentlessly hammer them with violent images, are psychologically coerced into going through a door "where there are people waiting to pray with you", or re-enter the secular world and risk damnation. As a psychotherapist, (another thing that evangelicals believe are of the devil) I can now fully understand why the majority of my most impaired clients come from fundamentalist backgrounds. Allowing young children to go through a Hell House is nothing short of child abuse, and at the very least Christian extortion.
55 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Move over, Errol Morris, there's a new kid in town. 5 May 2003
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Format: DVD
Hell House (George Ratliff, 2001)

Hell House is a documentary, a quick look at the infamous haunted house run every October by a Pentecostal church in Texas. One gets the distinct feeling that the church members had no idea Ratliff was making this documentary to poke fun at them, as earnest as they are.

The best scenes in this are those where Ratliff is using wordless, lingering shots to show how little these people actually know about what they're doing. The funniest thing in the whole movie is one church member describing the "occult" scene, which uses a pentagram; actually, it's not a pentagram, it's a Star of David in a circle. (It continues to amaze me no one there, seemingly, knows how to count to five.) Moments like this happen with regularity in the film, if you're paying close enough attention. Most of them are more subtle, but the payoff is just as grand.

For those of you unfamiliar with the increasingly-popular Hell Houses, a quick rundown: a Hell House is a Christian "haunted house"-type Halloween attraction put on for the purpose of converting the heathen. Everything from the amusing (raves, satanic sacrifice) to the boring (kid commits suicide because his peers are picking on him) to the morally repugnant (at this congregation, at least, AIDS is still strictly a "gay disease") is depicted in an attempt to scare the heathen straight and get them to convert. Does it work? This documentary would lead you to believe not, despite the claims of one church member that a number of people converted that month. (Entirely possible; Ratliff couldn't film all the groups being ministered to, of course, and the church (backed up by news reports) claims three thousand coming through per day. Like the old mama said, if you throw enough spaghetti against a wall...

Best watched for the amusement factor, but prepare to be horrified as well. Yes, folks, people still think like Neanderthals in 2001. ****
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