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2016 1h 40m Not Rated
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An inside look at Buddhafield, a West Hollywood cult formed by a charismatic teacher in the 1980s that eventually imploded.
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Cast of Holy Hell
Holy Hell Reviews
Matt Zoller Seitz
"Holy Hell" should have dug a lot deeper and told its story with a lot more finesse. What happened? Maybe, after all these years, Allen was still too close to his subject?
With unprecedented access to archival footage and former members of The Buddhafield, it's impossible to look away from Holy Hell.
Holy Hell has an undeniable car-crash fascination, especially once Allen reveals just how deeply this particular phony guru abused the trust of his faithfuls.
Allen begins the film by describing this journey as a '22-year search for truth,' and while there's no doubt that he found more than he bargained for, Holy Hell fails to convey what that might be.
If you're already fascinated by the world of religious fanaticism, Holy Hell will leave you captivated.
It hopes to jolt audiences with OMGs instead of edifying them about the empty lure of Buddhafield's cult mentality.
Allen's film is as much a self-reckoning as it is a cautionary tale for other spiritual seekers, and as such it offers invaluable insights into how cults -- and especially cults of personality -- function and grow.
Holy Hell, raw and anguished, is not just a story about a terrible breach of trust, but one of loss, its creator mourning the relationships he had.
Like watching a takedown of Hitler by a disillusioned Leni Reifenstahl, what emerges is one of the decade's strangest and most unsettling documentaries, especially given its as-yet-unwritten ending.
New York Times
Mr. Allen has made an engrossing and tense documentary, though his insider knowledge is sometimes a hindrance.
Does a sub-par job probing the psyches of both Buddhafield's leader and its members.
Los Angeles Times
It's ham-fistedly structured to withhold information for maximum dramatic impact. But that impact, as predictable as it is, hits hard.
Holy Hell plays like a thriller, all right, with a darkness edging slowly over its swimsuit revelry, but Allen never cheats in the interest of suspense.
Holy Hell is a purgative and an act of atonement.
The footage Allen shot during his time with The Buddhafield is remarkable; one wishes he'd have just handed it over to a removed third party to actually assemble into a film.
Though the material is juicy and the interviews heartfelt, the doc doesn't completely succeed in efforts to explain the spell this and similar groups cast on their acolytes;
Allen's gentle compassion for his fellow cult survivors is understandable, but is ultimately unsatisfying. Still, for fans of cult documentaries, Holy Hell is worth it for its insider footage alone.
The Public (Buffalo)
The best Troma movie that Troma never made.
The subject matter is so intoxicating, the footage unique and powerful, that even the flaws in this documentary can't erode the power of the stories and fascinating characters presented in Holy Hell.
Christine N. Ziemba
What begins as a video memoir evolves into a much larger portrait of betrayal, grief and healing.
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