Director George Ratliff turns out to be sharp enough not to go for easy laughs by ridiculing these zealous fundamentalists who run the school, or their deeply impressionable students. "Hell House" examines with a detached yet compassionate eye how pious Christian principles get turned into a carny act. Directed by George Ratliff. Produced by Zachery Mortensen, George Ratliff and Seline Lewis Davidson. 7th Art. Documentary. Not yet rated. Running time: 85 min
Judging from the title, you might think this is the latest grim offering from the pen of Clive Barker. This absorbing documentary, however, explores an entirely different type of horror. On each Halloween for the past 10 years, the Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, Texas, has presented a spectacle called Hell House. But rather than providing a spooky sideshow where students deliver thrills and chills, their haunted house is a fire-and-brimstone sermon that sets out to separate the saved from the damned. By luridly dramatizing numerous contentious issues like homosexuality and AIDS, drugs, abortion and rave culture, Trinity takes direct aim at the Prince of Darkness with the purpose of saving souls.