The film takes us deep into the heart of Texas to Trinity Church and its controversial, annual Halloween haunted house called Hell House. But this is no phony ghost event. It's a surreal and twisted journey, filled with numerous penny operas about drugs, suicide, raves, homosexuality, AIDS, and drunk driving, all conceived and performed by the Church's devoted flock.
The opening shots of the church members in pre-production meetings and in prayer circles tell us we are far from any well-known version of reality. What follows is an alarming series of vignettes concerning the conception, planning, building, and execution of the haunted house. There are a series of laughable high school drama queens auditioning for Drug Dealer #1 with Shotgun or Raver Girl Who Takes A Mysterious Date Rape Drug and Slits Her Wrists Hours Later. Two church volunteers argue over whether or not a pentagram should be red or white. The local law officer tests the .38 caliber guns on loan from the Sheriff's department for use in various Hell House vignettes including the "Classroom Suicide" scene.
Opinions on religious zealotry aside, Hell House delivers a cornucopia of wonderful snippets of faithful people trying to redeem the world from the entrapments of Satan. The director of the documentary, George Ratliff, captures the innocence and naïve intentions of Hell House by Trinity's congregation with sharp interviews set against brilliant white backgrounds - radiant in the glow of a digital video projection.
And they aren't all wackos. One churchgoer relates a real-life experience of divorce caused by Internet chat rooms, telling the disconcerting tale of an abusive father killing his wife and daughter after discovering the wife's extra-marital affair on the family computer. It's both harrowing and interesting.
Screened at the 45th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival.
Hell on sheets.
Run time: 55 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 30th March 2006
Production compaines: Mixed Greens Media
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
IMDB: 8.6 / 10
Director: George Ratliff
Producer: Zach Mortensen, George Ratliff, Selina Lewis