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HELL HOUSE

USA, 2001 (MIFF 2002, Documentaries)

Director: George Ratliff

"Hell House goes behind the scenes to chart the tenth year of America's oldest Christian Halloween thrillfest. The perils of abortion, homosexuality, rave culture and more are among the many horrors illustrated in this annual Texas spookshow... Hysterical screaming, gory death scenes and teary monologues. A slice of contemporary life many viewers will find bizarre and disturbing. Leaves viewers to draw their own conclusions about luridly pop missionary work." - Variety

This Toronto Film Festival hit suggests that the road to Satanic cults start with Harry Potter! Every Halloween the Fundamentalist Christian Assembly of God Church custom builds a kind of Luna Park of teenage sin - creepy cardboard sets, cheap props and a squeaky clean volunteer cast that makes the Brady Bunch look like crack-smoking serial killers. In Cedar Hill, Texas, however, around 12,000 locals queue up to be shocked out of their devilish ways by some prayer book pantomime.

Sometimes scandalous, always outrageous, this excellent documentary is a lot of fun but with a sober side, and we're not just talking about the alcohol-free wowsers that lurk in the dark comers of... Hell House!

George Ratliff studied film at the University of Texas before working as a journalist covering events in Central America. He went on to become a producer and director for the Independent Film Channel before his award-winning documentary debut, Plutonium Circus (1995).

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