Hellbound?: Religious doc an infernal bore

A documentary on notions about hell turns out to be not only a Christian preach-fest, but insufferably dull.

It took me a while to realize that Hellbound? was a Christian documentary. Not a documentary about Christianity but a Christian documentary, with all of the preachy white noise that entails to my atheist/agnostic/can’t-be-bothered ass. A documentary about the concept of hell throughout history and the religions of the world could be extremely compelling if done well; a documentary in which a variety of theologian talking heads, who are all but indistinguishable in their respective dogmas, argue in circles about whether their version of hell is the true one is sheer fucking torture.

To be fair to writer/director Kevin Miller, it could’ve been worse. Miller co-wrote Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the Ben Stein-fronted pro-intelligent design screed from a few years back that earned much scorn from basically everyone who wasn’t already sold on the idea. Hellbound? is not nearly as infuriating, but then again it’s not making nearly as incendiary a point, since it barely bothers to involve anyone but various permutations of evangelical Christians in its debate.

This relative even-handedness has the reverse effect of making it insufferably boring.  Unless you already have a vested interest in this stuff from an academic point of view, or share one of the myriad vaguely-different viewpoints about what happens when you die, there’s very little of interest within Hellbound? Black metal fans may be interested in watching members of Deicide and Mayhem shrug their way through brief interviews that add jack shit to the proceedings, and if for some reason you’re on a quest to watch every captured image of the notably wackadoo Westboro Baptist Church, they show up briefly to wave signs around and talk their particular brand of nonsense.

Apart from that it’s mostly just talking heads and zooming graphics, swirling around to make a point that may very well be deep and poignant if that’s what you’re looking for. (Spoiler alert: the overall message is that no one knows for sure.) I’m not, and from the looks of it, not that many people are. It’s the perfect thing for a lazy Sunday school substitute teacher to throw on; I predict many long years of Christian schoolchildren napping or drawing on their desks throughout the duration of Hellbound?. ■


Hellbound opens Oct. 26. Kevin Miller will be present for a Q&A on Monday, October 29 following the 7:30 p.m. screening at Cineplex Forum.

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