Halloween Flashback: Hell House

File this in the Random Thoughts Department: Delusion gets a lot of well deserved credit for transforming the traditional Halloween haunt experience into something more immersive, dramatic, and theatrical, but five years before Delusion made its debut, there was Hollywood Hell House, an extremely ironic recreation of a fundamentalist Halloween alternative designed to scare sinners onto the righteous path.

Instead of walking through a haunted house filled with jump scares, the audience was lead from scene to scene by a demonic guide. Vignettes depicted characters on the road to damnation for various transgressions; the scenes played out like mini morality plays, depicted for the audience’s benefit. In the finale, the audience was rescued from their demonic guide by a pair of angels, who took them for a meet-and-greet with Jesus, whose Book of Life contained the names of the Saved (those not in the book get a one-way ticket to the infernal region).

The amazing thing about Hollywood Hell House was that very little was done to satirize the text. Simply staging the scenes straight was enough to generate ironic detachment for a West Hollywood audience. But spoof or not, the Hell House presentation was an amazing piece of Halloween theatre, with some genuinely creepy moments (such as a recreation of the Columbine massacre, depicting a student shot for refusing to renounce his faith).

Unfortunately, Hollywood Hell House lasted only two years. If it were to return today, it would find itself right at home. You can read our review of the 2007 version  here.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.