Saturday, August 18, 2007

Becca's 'Hell House' Review

I'd like to officially welcome ChristianGirl15 Becca to the SuperCandid 'team'! She'll be providing a female perspective as often as a grad student can. First off, her take on 'Hell House'. She's new to blogging, and I personally think that's a wonderful thing because her review reads very well... like a research paper! IM IN UR BLOGZ LEAVIN PROPAR SPEECHEZ!


But It’s a Holy Hell …

Rebecca M.

“The presence of the devil is very real,” says the cheerleader. Tell me about it; I was escorted by a demon a few years back when I took the 45 minute tour through Hell House in Cedar Hill, Texas. I have to admit, I wasn’t very intimidated by the demon. I felt pretty safe knowing that it was just some kid who wanted to dress-up for a few nights and throw some evil intimidation around. Unknowingly, I would probably see this demon the very next day in chapel at my bible college, just a short 30 minute drive away from Hell.

Hell House was a huge deal at my college. About half of the student population went to church at Trinity, including me. And though Hell House was put on by the youth group, the college kids always managed to take it over. A good friend of mine participated the year I took my tour through Hell. She was the sacrificed bride of Satan almost every night for over a month. Lucky girl. I waved to her as I passed through her scene at Hell House. She excitedly waved back, not at all distracted by the fake blood dripping from her neck.

This is what Christian kids do to get people saved. But I tend to think this is how Christians justify their Halloween costumes. Just pretty it up a bit and throw some Jesus in there; everything will be alright. I was delighted when I found the “Hell House” documentary. I think the film meant different things for me because I knew those people. That guy who sets up the rave scene and so proudly spray paints his name in neon on the church walls … he stole that SMOD t-shirt he’s wearing from my husband. It’s okay, though. He was probably still strung out on the date rape drug – whatever it’s called – when he stole it.

It’s hard not to watch the film without an eagerness to bash the Assemblies of God and Christianity. But that’s one reason why I have such high regard for this film: the people and the environment speak for themselves. There is no commentary, no narration. All you see is a community vying for God’s attention and approval, trying so hard to do His work. Hell House is supposed to “reach the lost” and “infiltrate the culture.” And I do believe they have good intentions. But it’s hard to see that through all their excitement. It’s almost heartbreaking to watch young girls get excited about being the best girl for the abortion or rape scene. By trying to be relevant, they trivialize.

I could not admire the director enough for making an almost completely objective work. There is no manipulation or tricky editing in this movie. And that’s what makes it so good. The film is fair in its portrayal of the Hell House project. I don’t think the people can argue in any way with how they were portrayed.

The film makers hold steady when an argument with the youth pastor breaks out over whether white or red candles are more authentic to the occult. I could not have maintained my composure if I had bore witness to that myself. And I love that they included pieces from the personal lives of the Hell House participants. The wrestling match, for example … perfection. If the filmmaker allows them to unfold, those are the moments that happen naturally and make for a brilliant documentary.

The extras on the DVD are definitely worth the effort, including the episode NPR’s “This American Life” did about the Hell House film and movement. And you must watch the awards ceremony.

If in no other way, Hell House was impressive in its draw; thousands of people took the tour. Trinity’s impact on the DFW area was very real, though I doubt it was in every way the impact they expected. And if nothing else, you can appreciate the amount of work and dedication the church put into Hell House. I was impressed with what I saw, in terms of the set and the design.

My biggest disappointment is that Hell House dealt so heavily in the stereotypical. But it did get people talking about hell and about God. By watching the movie, the discussion is taken two steps further. And though I don’t perfectly understand what Trinity was going for in it’s creation of Hell House, I feel they had good intentions. As one of the young actors says, “God does the difference.”

I love this film. I own it. I’m glad I own it. It’s been passed around to many a friend’s house. But after having toured Hell House … I still prefer the film.

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1 comment:

jonnyflash said...

Hey, thanks for the post Becca! Great to hear from you, and you even agree with us for the most part(even better!). I'd love to go to a Hell House myself, just to see it. I wish there was one close enough to be worth the trip.

I have to agree with your comment about trying to hard to be relevant that they trivialize. I think that the real problem with such an outreach is that it is put on by people who are leading very insulated lives and are mostly out of touch with what they are trying to depict. Sure, some of them have been touched by tragedy, but that's not what they're trying to depict. I think it would be stronger if they stuck to stuff that is a bit harder to understand and all the more real.

For example, one girl mentions that she was playing the girl in the gang rape scene and the guy who raped her in real life walks into the Hell House. She doesn't elaborate, but I'd be willing to be that she didn't get raped after taking ecstacy at a rave. A scene with a good Christian girl who is raped and left for dead on her way home from church would be much scarier, more real, and have a better impact, IMO. More biblical too, since Jesus's story of the good samaratian didn't involve some guy who got drunk at a party and then beaten half to death.