Film Review: Hellbound?

After seeing this doc, the average sinning moviegoer may feel less apprehensive and less in need of an asbestos jumpsuit for the afterlife.

Okay, so what happens if we are bad and die? Kevin Miller’s all-inclusive debut feature documentary Hellbound? attempts to answer that question. He travels far and wide, eliciting a bewildering number of opinions. 9/11’s Ground Zero is featured (a bit too heavily) from the very beginning and throughout, as well as those Fred Phelps lovelies who hold up “God Hates Fags” signs, a death-metal concert, and Hell House, where scenes from Columbine are re-enacted to convince the young and pliable to embrace Christianity.

It’s all rather absorbing and quite exhausting, as Miller ricochets between fire-and-brimstone traditionalists and the less incendiary views of the Universalists, who seem to dominate the film in terms of sympathy and may strike the viewer as making the most sense, believing as they do that heaven is accessible to all. Miller also lends an ear to other varying views which can be labeled as Reformed Calvinistic, Evangelical, Arminian, etc. Along the way, we discover the true meaning of the term “Gehenna,” and there are some enlightening views espoused about the interpretation of certain Biblical passages. We learn that when the New Testament was being written, there were indeed differing, less literally heated views about an afterlife. As one commentator says, “Evangelicalism in America is what the Pharisees were to ancient Egypt.”

Frankly, the film will most appeal to those heavily invested in theology. It is undeniably intelligent and probing, a world away from the fluffiness of Diane Keaton’s opposite-end treatise, Heaven. Miller introduces us to controversial pastors like Mark Driscoll and Brian McLaren, but I particularly liked Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, an Orthodox priest who decries so many modern, simplistic interpreters of Jesus as the best used-car salesman ever.