by Travis Michael Holder
Hollywood Hell House
Steve Allen Theatre
Ooooooooooo, scary, kiddies! Demons and devils and right-wing
Christians, oh my! Just in time for Halloween, The Real Live Brady
Bunch producer Jill Soloway and her fearless producing partners have
brought Hollywood Hell House, a warped spin-off of the traditional haunted
house assembled annually in the gym of your local junior high, to the Steve
This blood-and-gore infused walk-through production lets you have a good fright
from a freaky point of view. Suitably shocked patrons experience the Christian
right’s newest conversion tool for confused children and teenagers, presented
exactly as it was originally written and staged by the real-deal Abundant Life
Christian Center. Touted by its creator Keenan Roberts as a wake-up call to “show
young people they can go to hell for abortion, adultery, homosexuality, drinking
and other things unless they repent” and advertised as an alternative to
haunted houses, Hell House “portrays the devastation sin causes.” Every
detail—the script, the staging, the costumes, the music—is executed
according to detailed instructions from the Center’s Hell
House Outreach kit. This is the most shocking haunted house ever, offering
a frightening eight-room journey into a twisted born-again vision of fundamentalist
fire-and-brimstone, and it’s surprisingly performed with Roberts’ permission.
I doubt if he realized when licensing his kit to Soloway that it would be recreated,
though true to the original concept and script, to emphasize through humor the
hypocrisy and stupidity it promotes. Obviously, the guy can’t be too bright.
Pray for him.
Guests witness a messy abortion, are caught in the middle of a school shooting
inspired by rock music, and observe an Ecstasy-induced gang schtupp that ends up in an untidy suicide. If that weren’t
enough to start impressionable kids thinking horrible thoughts, guests then descend
into Hell itself, complete with wanton women being pulverized into ground round
for eternity, as well as Politically Incorrect and Reel Times’ Bill Maher appearing as the devil. Perched regally on a glistening
meat-and-carnage throne, his Satan decrees us to join him, accompanied on opening
night by the falling off of his demonic horns as he read his lines from cue cards
taped on the wall behind our heads. Catching me noticing this, Maher glared at
me for a moment, then quipped, “Hey, I’m evil, I’m not off-book,
It begins as groups of 20 are led past a trio of black-lipped
Goth chickadees who moan in unison, as they get ready to slice ‘n dice
a human sacrifice, “Enter our bodies like a flood / As I drink this human
blood.” Their screaming victim is Six Feet Under’s Justina Machado and
our ghoulish guide, Bob Dassie (admired by Maher as “very Dennis Hopper”),
explains that the girl’s downfall began by reading Goosebumps and Harry
Potter. Next comes an Andy Warhol film-like abortion clinic, where the
doctor’s diploma on the blood-splattered wall reads “Beth Al B’Nai
University”—it’s a given in Hell House that the abortionist is a Jew, right? The
group rape at a rave leads to our heroine eating the barrel of a gun in a bedroom
covered with centerfolds of male celebrities and heavy metal musicians pulled
directly from teen magazines.
Of course, there’s the obligatory AIDS patient covered in sores and screaming
in agony in a hospital bed, who is grabbed by the hairy arms of a demon who pops
up from his mattress and pulls him into the fiery depths when he refuses to atone
for his homosexuality. Now remember all this, including the plans needed to create
the tricked-out bed, is covered in the official Hell House kit. Finally, after a beneficent look at
Conan O’Brien’s former sidekick Andy Richter reclining on a light
blue plush cross as the crucified Jesus, accompanied by a choir of angels (led
by comic and School of Rock star Sarah Silverman), we are ultimately
offered an opportunity to repent our own earthly transgressions.
The earliest version of Hell House was created by the uber-terrifying Rev.
Jerry Falwell in the late 70’s, picked up in 1992 by Roberts and presented
as part of a teenage outreach program. Roberts now sells his Hell House kits nationwide, including its 263-page manual covering everything
from casting to instructions on how to make hamburger meat look like a fetus.
In the first three years, Roberts sold 300 kits and, since then, approximately
3,000 Hell Houses have put the bejesus into young’uns across
the country. See, I told you it was scary. At Hollywood Hell House, prepare for a truly
sick vision of the afterlife, presented just as it is to thousands of impressionable
kids each year. For tickets to a real horrifying vision of the future as George
Bush would love to see it, call (323) 960-4418.