Hell House

 (141)
6.81 h 25 min200213+
Hell Houses are the evangelical Christian Church's answer to a haunted house, a fundamentalist fight night meant to scare the bejesus out of any nonbeliever. 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, Hell House follows the making of these contemporary fire-and-brimstone sermons. Shot at the Trinity Assembly of God Church in Texas, the film chronicles the entire process from initial script meeting to lavish stage production. Hell House is a window into the creative effort and religious zeal behind this over-the-top sermon, while remaining an intimate portrait of the people who fervently believe its message.
Directors
George Ratliff
Starring
Aria Adloo
Genres
ArthouseDocumentary
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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Producers
Zachary Mortensen
Studio
Mixed Greens Media
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
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4.0 out of 5 stars

141 global ratings

  1. 55% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 14% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 18% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 5% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 8% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Marilyn StrykerReviewed in the United States on May 7, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
What?!?
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This is disturbing, racist, sexist, homophobic, and all-around crazy. I mean, rape victims are the sinners? Are you kidding me? And you terrify children, guilt them, tell them all the world is against them, and if they are in pain and suffering with no support and no one there for you, it's your fault. And you better be happy Jesus put you in that life or else. Then have kids who cannot possibly understand what they're signing, pledge their life to you? It's 100% child abuse and unbearably sick. This is a terrible and WILDLY hypocritical depiction of Christianity. Picking and choosing what they want from the Bible. And the whole thing is straight blasphemy and sacrilegious. I hope this documentary opens eyes about the horrors of this child abuse brainwashing fanatics.

P.S. If you are the victim of sexual assault, it's not your fault. It doesn't matter if you drank, went to rave, had consensual sex at anther time, or whatever else. The fault is with the attacker. You have nothing to feel guilty about, and you should know you are supported. There are people out there who care about you, and will support you.
5 people found this helpful
C. JohnsonReviewed in the United States on March 9, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Tragedy Disguised as a Comedy
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Though this documentary was released in 2003, the Christian brainwashing of highly impressionable children and lesser intelligent adults continues to this day, and the ridiculous "message" of the church in charge of the titular Hell House puts that well into perspective. Even in the age of internet where global education is at its highest ever point, the desperate Christian movement continues in small towns and third world countries, leading the less fortunate down the trail of control. The camera work was extremely amusing, as I got the impression multiple times a sort of sarcastic and/or deadpan humor as they panned over certain subjects (for instance, a "pentagram" spray-painted with a Jewish star instead of a regular 5-pointed star, for some strange reason...) or hovered on silent interviewees during very awkward moments (or my favorite scene where a small group of reasonable young adults tried in vain to talk empathetic sense into the blindly ignorant pastor, before simply giving up and walking away). I particularly enjoyed the part where the guy at the end blatantly claimed the traumatic skits were not scare tactics, when they so clearly were, then went on to challenge the poor, newly susceptible victims to walk through the exit before thinking twice about their religion.

If you make it a habit to research religion and other such topics online and already know about all these underhanded tactics the church pulls to drag people under its umbrella of forced worship, then I highly recommend this documentary. You'll find yourself laughing more often than not, and the "graphic" scenes are fairly amusing as well (though underwhelming if you're a fan of gore or effed up topics). I really enjoyed myself watching this and appreciate that it's available on Amazon.
8 people found this helpful
Southern CharmerReviewed in the United States on June 28, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
The nostalgia of technology and style makes it OK
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Made in 2003. I appreciate the "goal" of this activity. The documentary makes awful insinuations about those victim to sexual abuse (young boy molested by male adult, "I believed the lies!"...and he goes to hell.) The scenes are overly dramatic and not what is considered realistic... As a TX resident, I am eager to attend this year to see if the "scare tactic " method is still happening at Hell House. The perception of this documentary of non believers (or followers) is one bad decision not only makes you scorned from Heaven, but not worthy of life at all. 3 stars because it is almost 20 years old, I see the true intention is not done out of hate, but the message and delivery is the epitome of why Christians are perceived as judgemental.
Tamara R LevienReviewed in the United States on August 20, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Missing Part of my Worldly Education
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It was disturbing, troubling to know there are people in the world like this. But good to know they exist and something to watch out for when I'm moving to a new community, picking a school for my kids, etc. Definitely an important part of my education of the world.
2 people found this helpful
SaganiteReviewed in the United States on November 12, 2008
4.0 out of 5 stars
Delusions made manifest.
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The level of access the people involved in creating the ultra-fundamentalist "Hell House" propaganda tool is extraordinary, and prevents the key players from appearing as simple two-dimensional baddies. These are people with struggles, genuine concerns, and human flaws, and while they take on the task of scaring heathens "straight" with a little too much flippant relish, their reasons for doing so appear sincere.

The ultimate impact of watching this fascinating documentary was, for me, to have some sympathy for the Hell House organizers and actors, while still thoroughly deploring their tactics. Terrifying children with images of demons and torment from the Dark Ages is no doubt an effective way of manipulating thought and behavior, but is more coercive than persuasive.

Along with such other documentaries as "Jesus Camp" and "Deliver Us From Evil," "Hell House" helps raise the level of awareness of how Christianity is actually practiced and understood by real people...something that those defending the religion from criticism by secularists seem to be unaware of. The idealized version of Christianity that its boosters refer exists, and probably is the majority view, but critics are not wrong to point out the zeal and commitment of the minority of believers who embrace a darker, more destructive vision of their faith.
4 people found this helpful
MihaiReviewed in the United States on August 14, 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
Interesting
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I heard about these houses that pop up around Halloween time, seeing them spoofed on television. Unfortunately none are my way and I was curious. So I bought this documentary to learn more. It was an interesting look at the history and then the constructing of the Hellhouse. They showed a few of the scenes being played out inside, and a lot of effort and time go into these things.
2 people found this helpful
CorgiloverReviewed in the United States on February 29, 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars
Christian Extortion At It's Worst
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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.
28 people found this helpful
Autumn ButterflyReviewed in the United States on October 3, 2007
5.0 out of 5 stars
Not as wacky as I expected...
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I was expecting the same type of foamy fundy type behavior that was so prevalent in Jesus Camp, but the group in Hell House came across as much more sane and sedate. There was some of the 'speaking in tongues' stuff but I didn't see anyone twitching on the floor (thank goodness), and in their interviews the kids and the adults both came across as thoughtful, bright and passionate without being so over-the-top.

I was particularly impressed by a father we meet about ten minutes into the film. His daughter is trying out for the Hell House abortion scene and we see her and her three other siblings getting ready for school. You immediately sense something is different about this family because instead of mom cooking breakfast and hurrying the children along, their father is doing it. Turns out he and his wife split up because she was seeing someone she met on the internet and he not only has custody of his children, he is raising them by himself. One of the children has epilepsy and goes into a seizure at the table, and this father carries him to a comfortable room and talks (also prays) the little guy out of it while they wait for the ambulance to arrive. It's a very powerful and emotional scene, and this man is so gentle and loving with his children it just really pulls at your heart. Later on the father decides to try out for a scene himself and he and his daughter both end up with good roles.

I've been very outspokenly against the whole concept of spiritually terrorizing kids at Halloween, and I still don't agree with terrifying children for the sake of proselytizing but I have to admit there's a lot of good intentions behind it. I don't think there's a drop of malice or evil intent in these people whatsoever, but I do question the wisdom of allowing children to see some of the scenes because they are so incredibly graphic. People dying of AIDS in a hospital room, a horrific car wreck, a girl laid out on a hospital bed bleeding to death after a botched abortion. It was so realistic and frightening there's no way I'd ever let my little ones see it.

The two scenes that got to me the most were the hospital scenes involving the AIDS patient and the post-abortion girl. It gives the wrong impression; that it's mainly gay people who get AIDS and it's their own fault. The setting and other aspects of the scene are quite realistically rendered, however, and I can see why people would be terrified by it.

The botched abortion scene is even more graphic. A teen girl is wheeled in on a gurney, her crotch, legs and the bedding under her literally soaked in blood. The set people really know their stuff; it looked frighteningly real. And wet. The artificial blood was pooling under her. Very graphic. The site of it is shocking and intense. The worst part of it that while this girl is lying there crying and screaming in pain there's a rubber-masked, black-robed demon standing behind the bed yelling at her that she's a murderer and she deserves to suffer for killing her baby. I wasn't even there and it got to me, I can only imagine how horrifying this would be to an elementary or middle-school aged child. Scary to some adults, even.

Oddly, no one complained save for a small group of kids who were so upset by the scene involving the gay kid in the hospital they confronted one of the adults. One of them was swearing and flipping the bird while yelling at the man about bigotry. I understood the upset but it could have been handled a bit more diplomatically. That better than any other part of the film showed the emotional and psychological impact the production has on people.

Still, I couldn't help but giggle at their 'occult props', one of which was a black board with what they no doubt thought was a pentagram, which was actually a red star of david painted inside a circle. There was an underlying sense of camp to the Hell House, and I could easily imagine my son and I and I going in and being impressed by the more realistic things, then watching the occult scenes and just laughing our butts off. I mean, arms around each other's shoulders for support, leaning, tears of mirth streaming down our faces, breathless laughter. You get these awful images of bloody bodies, hospitals and tormented people followed by the most poorly informed and campily-staged scenes of satanism and/or witchcraft imaginable. Hilarious!!

I found that while watching the film I experienced a strange mix of emotions ranging from hilarity to horror. It's definitely an objective look at something a lot of us are not involved in and it leaves you emotionally drained, to be sure, but you don't (at least I didn't) get the sense that these people are wackos like the 'Jesus Camp' group. They're sincere and very, very serious about what they're doing. Their passion is inspiring, even if they aren't exactly well-informed. I also liked the noticeable absence of input from the director. He didn't narrate, he didn't make an appearance, he didn't do anything but film what was being done and put up a camera for the individual church members to record their video diaries. The editing was sparse but tight and you get a sense of who these people are without the intrusion of a lot of special effects or negative commentary. I like this approach; it says, 'this is the way things are, take it or leave it'.

Overall it's an excellent documentary, and a fascinating look into a belief system some of us haven't been exposed to, and others among us (like myself) are glad to have left behind. I'm looking forward to watching it again.
6 people found this helpful
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