Any documentary that inspires you to hop a plane so you can hunt down the subjects of said documentary so you can slap them into next week?
Not a pleasant experience.
Lo and behold, I present you with Hell House.
Now, in my defense, this Netflix selection has been sitting in my house since, oh, Halloween. Halloween came and went with it being unwatched and I kept meaning to send it back unwatched, but it kept slipping my mind.
Cue me, still feeling under the weather. No Babylon 5 DVDs to watch, and my eye falling on the happy Netflix envelope.
Let me be clear: I do not paint all people of a religious group with the same brush. It's really, really hard to do that, especially considering that the three major monotheistic religions have billions of adherents and each of the monotheistic religions has hundreds and even thousands of different versions of the "right way."
But I seriously gotta question the sanity of the Assemblies of God Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas.
- Quote: "Trinity Christian School (which is attached to Trinity Church) teaches everything from a Christian persepctive. (Camera pans over Speach, Spelling and Math books that all have the subtitle: For Christian Schools)."
I was completely unaware that there was a "Christian" way for teaching speach, spelling, and math. Stupid me. I thought 1 + 1= 2 regardless of your religion. Then again, I'm a dumbass Unitarian, so what the hell do I know?
- Quote: "The Pentacostal movement started in 1904 and there was no formal church or anything, but there was this one black bishop who'd ordain the faithful and send them out. There were some people who had a problem with being under a black bishop, so we broke off and formed the Assemblies of God."
Ahhhh, a branch of Chritianity that started because of pure racism. Yes, I see how this reflects the teachings of Jesus. When he was talking about how even Samaratins are people too and can show mercy even to people who'd normally spit on them, he was just kidding. Good to know.
- Scene: Woman talks about how she played the 'suicide' in Hell House for several years running and that it was 'attached' to the father-molesting-his-daughter scene (i.e., her character committed suicide at the urging of a demon because she couldn't deal with being molested and she went to hell).
Now that's a pretty clear message, ain't it? No muddying the waters there. Not. At. All.
Scene continued: Woman says she never could get into the character because she didn't see it. (Gee, you think? Might be that blaming the victim thing.) But one night the guy who raped her two years ago comes into the Hell House and watches her perform her suicide scene and then she finally connects with the character while reading her lines. Then she forgives him what he did to her.
Okay, right there she's a stronger woman that I am. Because I'm pretty sure in her shoes I would've broken character and refused to finish the scene just so I could look at asshole rapist and say that I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of him watching me even play-act a suicide and imagining that I thought about it in real life.
This was an extremely unsettling moment, given all the other blame-the-woman scenarios floating around Hell House.
- Mentioned in passing: The domestic violence scene is the result of a husband finding out his wife cheated on him.
Because we know that all dudes who hit their wives/girlfriends/daughters do it because they made the poor dude do it. You know, you just know, the the dude is going to utter the line: "Now look what you made me do!" after smacking around the woman playing his wife.
- Scene: A guy proposes a scenario where a kid who's being made fun of commits sucide in front of his class by blowing his head off with a gun. One guy protests that it's too close to a Columbine scenario. The leader says that he doesn't have a problem with that.
Really, how can anyone have a problem with that? Oh. Wait. I do.
Scene continued: Hell House leader says that the year Columbine happened, they based a scene on it and it caused problems. Then he quickly corrects himself and says it caused a 'discussion.'
It caused 'a discussion' because you obviously have the sensitivity of a root vegetable. While I'm not saying that it looks any better if you waited a year, at least you'd demonstrate the sensitivity of an earthworm, a much higher biolocal unit than a root vegetable.
- Quote: "Is this about fear? Yes. This is about teaching people fear of hell." (Said like this is a good thing.)
Well, at least you're honest. Gotta give you points for that. So, I suppose that all that New Testament stuff about the Divine Being (whatever name you call said Divine Being by) having infinite love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, the same Divine Being that gave us all the spark of life and free will and the ability to understand what both means, should not be the primary motivation. Unending Love is not the answer, then. First there's fear, then there's love with conditions.
Have I mentioned that your God is a very scary God? I'll be over here with the Unitarians since, y'know, we consider fear of the Divine Being (whatever you wish to call said Divine Being) as a bad thing.
- Scene: Two people doing script re-writes are mapping out the path from Harry Potter to Satanism. First it's Harry Potter, then it's ouiji boards, then it's Magic: The Gathering. Cue argument over whether this mysterious card game is called Magic or The Gathering or Magic: The Gathering. They settle for just Magic.
No! No! No! Get it right!
First Harry Potter, then Magic: The Gathering, then ouiji board, then a straight shot to hell. Getting the order all wrong makes you look dumb.
And, oh, if you're going to condemn a card game you know nothing about, it might be a good idea to at least get the name right. There's a phone right there. Call a comic book store to check the freakin' name. If you want that touch of reality, and please pardon me saying so, the devil is always in the details.
- Scene: Uniformed police officer explains his involvement with Hell House. He also teaches gun safety at the school by firing a gun in a school auditorium.
Oh no you didn't! Please tell me I didn't just see that. I'm all for teaching gun safety. Hell, in some parts of the country, I can see why it might be mandatory. But can we bring the kids to the firing range to teach gun safety? I'm thinking it's a hell of a lot safer. I'm talking a one-day class trip.
- Scene: Two guys argue over the 'witchcraft/satanist' scene. One guy insists that 'according to a warlock who came through a few years ago' white is never used in any witchcraft ritual, so the pentagram should be red, and not white.
Oh, where to begin. The breathtaking ignorance just compounds with each word.
The 'warlock' was having them on, that much is pretty damn sure. No male witch would ever, ever call themselves a warlock. Only wannabees, D&D fanatics with reality issues, and people pretending to be witches call themselves "warlocks." When a male witch calls himself a 'warlock,' he's not a real witch nor is he an adherent of Wiccanism. Full stop.
Then we've got the 'white is never used' in witchcraft rituals. Excuse me, all Wiccan circles involve salt (white), and is color balanced (white and black, which stands for the duality of nature, drawing in energy and sending it out, and balance in all things). Some covens even wear white (purity of intentions). So, really, not getting where red or black is the universal color.
Finally, not to get to deeply into the witchcraft/satanist thing: here's a tip. In order to be a satanist, you've got to actually believe in Satan. Wiccans and other pagans do not believe in Satan. Hence, you've got a problem connecting the two.
And if you think you're going to convince any Wiccan with doubts about his or her religion with your Hell House by getting every single thing wrong, you're in for a very, very sad supprise.
Scene continued: Camera pans over a freshly spray-painted board. In red, the numbers '666' and right next to it, in red, a Star of David.
*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
I'm going to be charitable and assume that the Hell House builders confused a pentagram (five-pointed star in a circle) with a Star of David (six-pointed star in a circle). I will assume this was an honest mistake. I will in no way assume that this was connecting Judiasm with Wiccanism or (in their belief system) with the devil.
- Scene: Guy explains why he managed to convince the Hell House organizers to include a clubbing or "rave" scene. He goes into detail, saying that he remembers pulling a dozen bodies out of a rave when he was a teenager. He corrects himself and says, "Eight or 10." Then he ammeds it again to, "it only happened with the bigger ones."
I am not putting down this guy's experience. Believe me, I'm not. But I smell a serious exaggeration here. I'm all for warning kids about the potential dangers posed by mind-altering substances (and I include nicotine and alcohol here), up to and including the havoc it plays on your health. However, I sincerely doubt the body count was that high. In a city the size of Boston, if one person dies in a rave, it's pretty big news. Depending on the newsday, it might even make front page. If the body count was that damn high anywhere in this country, especially given the hysteria around "raves," I'm pretty damn sure we'd have heard about it.
Furthermore, I'm also thinking that if you're going to do any drug education, a Hell House is a less-than-ideal place to do it. Especially when you've got people dancing under blacklights, someone in a water tank doing a "water dance," and DJ doing cool club tunes distracting people from your central message.
Scene continued: Guy then gets in over his head about "the date rape drug." He doesn't know what it's called. But he can say that scientifically, societally, and officially, "it's going to be the date rape drug."
We have an "official" date rape drug? Sanctioned by the FDA? Really? I learn something new every day.
And for the record, there are at least three pharmaceutical agents called "date rape drugs." They are: rohypnol, GHB, and ketamine. They are also why everyone, not just women, but men too, should never accept a drink from a stranger that isn't in a sealed bottle or can. I don't care if it's a bar, party, or "rave." Just say no to cups. Sad way to look at the world, I know, but I'm all about personal safety.
Again, this is worthwhile information that should be shared with teens (hell, should be shared with everyone), but if you can't be assed to get the names of these drugs or pass on safety tips on how to avoid accidentally ingesting these drugs, then you are not helping.
- Scene: Kids descend on cast list to see what parts they landed. Cries of "Cool! I get to be the rapist!" and "Cool! I get to commit suicide!" and "Cool! I get to be the woman with an abortion!" are heard as the lucky cast hugs and smiles in the hall.
Okay, now that's just fucking disturbing. The quick cut to the football game after this scene to show how normal these kids are? Not helping with the fucking disturbing.
- Series of scenes: Drug dealers. Domestic violence. Suicide. Rave. In every single scene, the girl gets hurt or dies, even in scenes where the main sin is between two guys.
This is me putting my eyeballs back into my head. I'm not shitting you here people. The women are being punished, even if they're just there as innocent bystanders. They're the ones getting drugged and raped. They're the ones getting beaten. They're the ones committing suicide. My favorite jaw-dropper? A drug dealer (played by the Hispanic teacher, naturally) busts into an apartment, tells another drug dealer that he's honing in on his turf, and then Hispanic drug dealer shoots the girl in the room even though his beef is with the other drug dealer.
The mind. She is boggled. She has snapped.
The eyes. They is seeing red. Can't remove red film from eyes.
We need to do a flyover drop of Betty Friedan on top of Trinity Christian. Like, right now.
Then we need to offer free rides to help all the girls who want to leave escape, because daaaaaammmmmnnnnnn.
Oh, and for the guy who's asking his students if they know the name of the "date rape drug," it's rohypnol, GHB, or ketamine. Pick one. Do not listen to the kid who tentatively offered, "A mickey?" While all three drugs can be slipped into a drink to make a mickey, they are not mickeys.
- Observation: The number of guys involved with Hell House who claim their wives have left them for 'someone they met on the Internet' seems a little higher than normal.
Just an observation. No comment. Please refer to the bullet point immediately above this one.
- Scene: Opening night at the Hell House where Steve and his "homosexual lifestyle" led to him dying of AIDS. He is promptly and dragged off to hell upon death.
The sarcastic tone of the narrator?
NOT HELPING WITH THAT BURNING RAGE!
Scene continues: Girl rushed to emergency room hemorrhaging from taking "that abortion pill RU486."
Where shall I begin with factual wrongness? RU486 is not "a pill," it's two different pills. The first pill, methotrexate, must be given under the watchful eye of a physician and the patient is monitored. The second pill, misoprostol, is taken 2 to 6 days after the initial pill at home. There are several side effects, none of them pleasant, some of them serious. It's a hell of a lot safer than a surgical abortion.
However, hemorrahging like you had a coat hanger abortion does not happen to be one of the side effects.
You're against abortion, fine. You think it's evil, fine.
But damn it! Education, people! Facts! Know what the hell you're talking about before you scare the 5-year-olds in the crowd half to death!
Scene continues: Shots of terrified little kids. Shots of some adults trying not to bust out laughing.
I'm thinking that this saving souls via Hell House is not working for people over the age of 10. I also think it just might be a cult thing for some people to check out just how crazy Hell House is this year.
Shit. I feel bad for the little kids. I'm thinking nightmares. Lots and lots of nightmares because, damn these scenes are violent. How may guns can one Hell House hold? You'd be shocked at the answer. Seriously.
- Scene: Kids are asked their favorite scene. The answer? The rave scene because "at least you get to dance."
Raise your hands if you just knew this was going to backfire.
And can I just add? Most. Unenthusiastic. Ravers. Ever.
There are raves on Law & Order that looked more realistic. There are raves on Seventh Heaven that looked more realistic. There are ameoba in fetid pools that don't even know what raves are who could pull off a more convincing rave.
This rave is a baaaaaaaaaad.
Shuffling from foot to foot in vague time to the music is not a rave. It's a bunch of white Texas teenagers who are afraid to dance because it just might turn into a rave.
At least the DJ (he-who-still-can't-figure-out-the-name-o
f-the-"date-rape-drug") looks like he's having a blast playing songs he doesn't listen to any more since he doesn't do raves any more.
Scene continues: Girl who gets raped in the rave scene comes home and, at the taunting of a demon that she can't go to the police because she doesn't remember who or how many guys raped her, commits suicide.
Let's talk mixed messages people.
Who gets punished? Who gets taunted by a demon? Who commits suicide from guilt and shame? Who ends up in hell?
Bzzzzzzt. Wrong answer!
Ding, ding, ding, ding. We have a winnah!
The one saving grace in this scene? The one saving grace?
A group of black chicks witnessing this little horror show look like they're ready to rush the stage and do some serious damage to the set and the actors. The jaw-dropped looks of horror is a beautiful thing to behold. At least they get just how fucked up this is.
- Scene: The stoner-looking Catholic kids flip their shit!
Stoner-Looking Catholic Kids: What the fuck?!?
Assemblies of God Man: Be saved in the name of Jesus!
Stoner-Looking Catholic Kids: Get away you freak! And again, what the fuck?!? Hello? Differing points of view? You don't have a lock on truth!
Assemblies of God Man: Jesus tells us...
Stoner-Looking Catholic Kids: What bible are you reading?
Assemblies of God Man: The bible was translated from Hebrew to the King James Bible.
Stoner-Looking Catholic Kids (with a much better grasp of biblical study): Bzzzzt! Wrong!
Assemblies of God Man: The bible...
Stoner-Looking Catholic Kids: Dude! Don't tell us! The Catholic Church is 2,000 years old! You broke away from us. You wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the Catholic church. Plus, you missed the Bible's Latin phase. And the Greek phase. And the Council of...
Assemblies of God Man: SECURITY!
Stoner-Looking Catholic Kids (as they're hustled off stage left by security): Bullshit!
Assemblies of God Security: What is your issue? Jesus Christ says...
Stoner-Looking Catholic Kids: You give Christianity a bad name. You're saying all gays go to hell. Fuck you very much. You say all suicides go to hell. She just got raped and was depressed! How the hell can anyone judge that? You? Fuck you very much again.
Assemblies of God Security: Jesus decides, just as you saw at the end of the tour!
Stoner-Looking Catholic Kids (insert much flicking of the bird): The gay guy who died of AIDS was in your hell, asswipe!
Assemblies of God Security (end of his rope): What in heaven's name did you expect when you came to Hell House?
Stoner-Looking Catholic Kids: We were expecting Christians. Our mistake.
Best part? The stoner-looking Catholic kids had to restrain one of their number from physically attacking security because of the gay issue. Turns out he's got friends and family that are gay.
The only clean-cut Catholic kid in the group, a girl, points out that they're just being a little toooo black and white (this girl is so me) because, hell, she's been to plenty of raves and has never taken drugs or had sex in the corner. Everyone she knows has gone to raves and steered clear of both. She declared the rave scene, "A lie" and pretty much said that the lying does more harm than good.
She also said she was appalled by the body count in Hell House, especially since the escalations from sin to death went from 0 to 60.
One of the other stoner-looking Catholic kids called the whole business, "Poison."
The stoner-looking Catholic kids did leave finally peacefully, but were still calling the whole thing, "Bullshit," albeit in a more respectful way since their tempers had cooled.
Now this scene is some kind of awesome.
And also? Shows I wasn't over-reacting to some of this stuff.
- Scene: Hell House tour is over, now comes the hard sell. A guy preaches to be people who walked through the house and exhorts them to move into the church and pray and get right with god.
I note that the black chicks who looked like they wanted to do violence during the raped girl's suicide scene are standing there defiantly, with chins out, daring this guy to make them go into that church and pray. You go, girls!
Scene continues: Shots of people who went into the church to pray getting the Word.
Am I the only one who has problems with young kids getting preached to by the people they're supposed to be praying with and no sign of their parents around? I wonder what would happen if, say, the Unitarians decided to do some recruiting and started talking to their kids when they weren't around. Can you say, "They'd raise holy hell?" Betchya can.
- Quote: "The world is an evil, ugly place. And that's a scary thing. It's also a good thing, because it means that Jesus is close to coming."
Finally, something that inspires me to prayer:
Excuse me, God?
If You're not too busy making a cool new universe next door to this one, I'd like to make an earnest request.
Please keep this young woman away from any position of responsibility. I do not want anyone with that kind of dark view of this marvelous world, Your beautiful creation, to have any power over my life. I do not want anyone with that kind of view of the world to have power over anyone's life.
I know this is a very small thing, and I know You probably think we should be able to work out all our differences by ourselves, but this really, really important.
You don't have to get to it right away. I'm a pretty patient gal. I can wait. I'm not sure anyone else can, but I can. I'll leave the timing up to You, since You know best.
Plus, when You finish that cool new universe next door, can I come and visit? Let me know when's good for You. You know where I live.
Thanks in advance.
Oh, and before I forget...
Please note: I have not taken aim at these people's religious beliefs. Granted, I find the whole speaking-in-tongues, annointing-with-oil, going on dates by going to church, and laying-on of hands to be slightly odd.
I'm also 100% sure that these people would consider me to be more than just a little odd. They'd consider me to be on the fast track to hell.
Note to self:
Get down on knees.
Thank Divine Being I live in the People's Republic of Massachusetts, Home of the Weirdos, Land of the Heretics.