Video Digest, October 27, 2006

Hell House: Right-wing haunted houses, where hell is real; Tim Curry lighten Halloween; Slight deflation for The Wire; Cost-efficient costumes.

On Wednesday night, I went to the Les Freres Corbusier production of Hell House, the right-wing horror show so memorably depicted in George Ratliff’s 2000 documentary of the same name. Each witching season, evangelical churches across the country set up an elaborate hell house, a cautionary walk through the evils that will befall you if you don’t walk with Christ; there’s stuff about abortion, and gay marriage, and school shootings. It’s like watching Fox, but with much better costumes.

I grew up an interstate jog from one of the country’s most famous hell houses, Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas, but I was never aware of this phenomenon. The only haunted house we knew was run by drunk college kids in a rat-infested warehouse out by Six Flags. Scary, but not for the right reasons. I would have been all over that hell-house business. For those who are curious—and brave!—Radar Online has a clip of the LFC production this week. Be careful: It could be more dangerous than Goosebumps.

The key question about the New York production concerns its level of smirk. To what extent do the actors wink, and thereby undercut, their material? The answer is that it’s played pretty straight. There are predictable audience scoffs, but hey, it’s New York. Clearly these people don’t realize listening to heavy metal really can make you insane. Anyway, for a comparison, here’s a trailer for a hell house in Azle, Texas, outside Fort Worth. From the first riffs of the Evanescence soundtrack, you can tell they’re a wee more serious. And they should be: Your soul is at stake.

Leave it to the clever folks at WFMU to have the holiday-appropriate antidote to all that creepiness. Their clip of “Anything Can Happen on Halloween,” from the 1986 TV movie Worst Witch, doesn’t make me scared for anything but Tim Curry’s career. But you know, even in this crap, Curry owns.

So have you been watching The Wire? And have you heard it’s the best show on television? (From, like, everyone?) First String Entertainment, an LA-based comedy troupe, put together this Wire parody. I don’t know if it works if you haven’t watched the show, but then, sheesh, if you haven’t watched the show, you have bigger problems, son.

The real scary question this Halloween is what costume will you wear? May I suggest an inexpensive, low-budget fix?

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