Variety Feature

Inside Move: The devil's in the details
Christian Hell House gets H'wood makeover

Bill MaherBill Maher and Sarah Silverman are preaching fire and brimstone in Hollywood.

Some freaky side-effect of "The Passion of the Christ?"

Not exactly.

Welcome to the Hollywood Hell House.

In the fundamentalist Christian version of a haunted house (as explored in George Ratliff's 2001 doc "Hell House""Hell House") visitors are confronted with graphic images of "sinful" behavior, including abortions, homosexuality and teen suicide, and told the only way to save themselves is to pray to Jesus Christ.

Now Hollywood has its own Hell House, complete with a rotating cast of 80 actors, strictly adhering to the genuine Abundant Life Christian Center script.

But why?

"I was raised as a born-again Christian and I know how damaging fundamentalism and literalism are. We wanted to let the Hell House be a parody of itself," says Maggie Rowe, a comedy writer-thesp who came up with the concept. "Just by changing the context, we hope people will look at this in an intellectual, and humorous, way."

Rowe is producing the project with "Six Feet Under""Six Feet Under" supervising producer Jill SolowayJill Soloway, actress Becky Thyre and legitlegit helmer Amit Itelman.

When the House opens on Aug. 27, Maher will play Satan, Andy RichterAndy Richter plays Jesus and Silverman will be "Chrissy," the abortion girl. Richter will get a shot at the Satan role, too. Show runs through Halloween at the Center for Inquiry-West's Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood.

Rowe, who is still religious, says her goal is not to attack Christianity, just what she dubs "spiritual terrorism." She hopes presenting Hell House to a Hollywood audaud will give it an ironic spin, much the way "Reefer Madness" became a cult classic with the very auds it aimed to criticize.

Curiously, the show even has the approval of Pastor Keenan Roberts, who sells do-it-yourself Hell House kits online for $300 each.

On his Web site, Roberts asserts, "Our nation needs to know that much of what they are being fed by the liberal media and entertainment industries is lies and falsehoods."

Now he's counting on that very same industry to bring his message to that bastion of all things evil: Hollywood.