Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hell House (2001, George Ratliff)

The person who recommended me this movie told me it was "the best film that Christopher Guest didn't direct" and he was spot on.

Hell House is an odd film to write about. I imagine that some will look at it in disgust and will be shocked by what it presents, sort of like how people approached Jesus Camp. While others, I feel, will look at it as a dark comedy with lots of dry humor. I chose to look at it as a comedy since it seems that the director is aiming for that most of time, and as a comedy it is fucking hilarious.

Hell House, for those that do not know, is a documentary which chronicles the auditions, planning, and execution of a haunted house that a couple of Christians put on every year. The twist is that they use planed scenes performed by actors involving issues of school shootings, abortion, the dangers of raves, and being a homosexual to "scare people" who are not accepting God and are not living the way that God wants them too.

The thing which I loved about the film is that it takes what could have been a touchy subject and makes it a subject that is still touchy but given that the people within it are so ridiculous and such character straight out of fiction that you cant help but not take it too seriously. I will also say that another aspect that I loved about the film is that instead of just presenting these characters and making fun of them from a distance the director, George Ratliff, gives enough background to these characters that we can sort of "get them" and we cant hate them. We actually see why some characters are the way they are towards religion. We can only laugh but not point a finger.

That is really all I have to say about the film. I will give it ***1/2 stars for now even though I want to give it 4. This is only because I still want to rewatch the film one more time to see if I was just looking for laughs too much or if the director was really aiming for laughs during some scenes. I guess the grey area that exists is too grey for me for now.

- ***1/2

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