A weird form of evangelism that is slowly gaining among fundamentalists. Churches in the midwest construct vast “hell houses” to scare visitors to Jesus. Originally begun as a response to Halloween haunted houses, these elaborate stagings, crammed with theatrical effects and high-school actors on October 31, try to outdo each other in their ultra-realistic depiction of sin and horror. This documentary follows one church as they embark on another year of creatively presenting depravity — a labyrinth of rooms each seeded with a different sin (suicide, drug addiction, prostitution) realistically reenacted. Innocent kids scare themselves sick by how realistic they’ve made their own hell. The film works because it is sympathetic to those possessed by their enemy, and because it doesn’t overdo the obvious irony that hell houses are so spooky in concept that they scare in the wrong direction. On the other hand, nobody creates such amazing haunted houses like they do.
Directed by George Ratliff
2001, 86 min.
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental
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Available from Amazon