A new documentary from Plexifilm, directed by George Ratliff, explores the uniquely American Halloween phenomenon known as a Hell House.  A Hell House is a combination live theater/proselytizing event in which attendees are shown various grisly deaths related to sinful behavior and their final destination, hell, followed by a religious message on how to avoid this fate. Ratliff followed the process of creating a Hell House by Trinity Assembly of God in Dallas, Texas, which created what is believed to be the first Hell House in 1990.  Over 10,000 people visit Trinity's Hell House each Halloween season.  And Hell Houses are now a nationwide phenomenon; hundreds are created each year, and this year will be no exception.


Of interest to pop culture retailers is a scene that depicts the scripting of the 'occult room' story.  From struggling with the name to describing Magic: The Gathering as a roleplaying game, it's clear that the writers don't know a lot about the game.  That doesn't stop them, however, from putting Magic in a progression of pop culture pursuits that start with Harry Potter and lead to Satanism. 


The final script piece (presumably to be spoken by a demon character that narrates the performance for the audience) goes like this:  'I've got Kristin right where I want her.  The process has gone on for years.  As she read Harry Potter books as a child she became interested in the other side.  At junior high sleepovers she played with the Ouija board.  Then in high school the kids at her lunch table introduced her to roleplaying games such as Magic: The Gathering.'


One of the writers explains the scene to the camera.  'If you come up to most people and say you want to be a Satanist they say NO,' he said.  'If you come up to a kid that's searching for something, ...or that has low self esteem, ...there's a lot of interest in the things that the power of the dark side can bring....Kids are falling for those lies all the time.'


The Trinity Assembly of God production is a sophisticated operation, involving actors, extensive lighting equipment, and full tech crews.  And it's no stranger to, nor does it shrink from controversy.  Depictions of school shootings a la Columbine are among the events depicted.
Pop culture retailers that stock Magic, Dungeons and Dragons, or other fantasy games are advised to be aware of Hell Houses in their communities and the negative portrayals of their product lines that can be promulgated in such performances.  And Ratliff's well-made documentary is worth a look, both as a film and as a piece that contributes to an understanding of Hell Houses.