Documentary raises hell

“This is Hell House, home of dramatized gang rapes, incurable diseases, suicide and abortion, the shock of which Trinity Church of Cedar Hills [Tx.] hopes will disturb young people into giving their lives to God this Halloween.”

On Oct. 29, the documentary Hell House was presented in the Gough Great Room as part of the student life series Movies that Matter. With over 60 students in attendance, the screening proved successful in the eyes of Professor Kevin Maness, the organizer of the series.

“I was really pleased with the turnout, but the mass exodus caught me off guard,” said Maness, referring to the way much of the crowd headed for the double doors at the end of the film. “I should have made it a bit more clear that the discussion is a big part of why we’re doing this thing.”

This documentary follows members of Trinity Church as they plan their annual hell house. The hell house appears to be an elaborate Halloween haunted house, but it’s much more than that. Once inside, a tour guide dressed as a demon takes groups of young people from room to room to view portrayals of school massacres, suicide, family violence, AIDS deaths, fatal drunk driving crashes and abortions. All the while, demons provoke them into sin.

While members of Trinity Church deny that they use scare tactics, it is clear that their goal is to scare these kids so much that they will cling tightly to a life of their religion.

One scene showed a group of very articulate teenagers challenge the hell house on its controversial tactics. “This is why people are so turned off to the Christian religion,” said one teenager in the movie. “It’s too black-and-white. There’s no gray area.”

In response to the movie, many opinions were heard throughout the room. “The nearly 30 people who did stay afterwards seemed to have a lively conversation, which made me very happy,” said Maness.

“It was beneficial because it tells you who you really are based on the scenes [portrayed],” said sophomore Mike Jones. “Life is one big decision making [process].”

A common theme of the post-film discussion were the differences between coming to salvation through fear or through true conversion, between seeing a God who judges or a God who loves.

“The whole concept of a hell house is something that I believe churches should avoid because it is not an accurate representation of a life with Christ,” said senior Marco Ulloa. “A life with Jesus is a lifelong process of redemption, and I believe that a hell house focuses too much on the judgment of sin for it to have any real lasting and healthy outcome.”

With the jump from 17 attendees to over 60 and the fruitful discussion afterwards, Movies that Matter had a successful event.

“[Hell House] was a very interesting documentary to watch and I appreciated the discussion time afterwards,” said junior Emily Hutchison. “I am still processing the movie and still trying to sort out how I feel about this extreme version of evangelism.”

Student reactions indicated that this movie really did matter.

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