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Last night we went to see Hell House, the documentary about the Texas Pentecostal church that builds a house-of-societal-horrors every Halloween to scare lost souls back to Jesus. While the movie is often hilarious (note to Christians: this is not a pentagram) and occasionally disturbing (teens reveling in anti-gay bigotry, a Hell House vignette implying that girls get raped at raves because they were molested as kids), the film is even-handed and even goes out of its way to make the HH cast and crew sympathetic. The single dad, trying to raise his four kids (two of whom have severe disabilities) after his wife left him for someone she met online, is particularly moving. In stage-dad fashion, he's thrilled when his teenage daughter wins the role of "Abortion Girl," a moment equal parts touching and creepy. He also lets the story of his divorce become fictionalized as one of the Hell House vignettes and stands in the corner watching it with tears in his eyes.

But, hey, it's not all poignant -- there's also plenty of sub-Guffman community theater to mock! I kept waiting for the director -- who resembled a pudgy Ralph Reed with a porn-star mustache -- to blurt out "You people are bastard people!" while speaking in tongues. And the newly saved former rave kid who tries to make the Hell House rave scene as authentic as possible (including using the "official date-rape drug") inadvertently illustrates the pointlessness of suppressed urges.

So what I'm saying is, go see this movie when it comes to your town. Won't you?

Replies: 4 Confessions

But if you're in Chicago, you're S.O.L., because last night was the final night.

Some of the footage was also previously featured on an episode of This American Life, which should give you a feeling of the subjects that are tackled in the house.

jima @ 10/25/2002 08:28 AM CST

Screning list here! Note to Portland, OR readers (we know you're out there): it's opening there tonight!

jima @ 10/25/2002 08:30 AM CST

I heard the _This American Life_ segment, which was very good. I don't think I could take a whole movie of it. My delicate Jesuit Catholic Sensibilities would start howling for the blood of the Hell House blasphemers.

talk about forgive them Father for they know not what they are fucking doing.

shechemist @ 10/25/2002 09:13 AM CST

Hey! I used to live a block from the theater HH is playing in! Quirky place.

Since Aidan came, it's more difficult to get out to the theater. I've already got one movie planned for next week, curse you!

Charlie @ 10/25/2002 02:12 PM CST

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