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May 8, 2022

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We continue our investigation on Estus Pirkle — the Baptist preacher whose forays into film with collaborator Ron Ormond are among the most compelling Christian movies ever made due to their eager adoption of grindhouse aesthetics. The sequel to the cult classic IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU, WHAT WILL HORSES DO? (which we covered last week) is called THE BURNING HELL. It’s Pirkle’s response to what he sees as an increasingly soft Christian culture that has abandoned teaching that hell is an eternal punishment for sinners and nonbelievers. Pirkle thinks hell is literally real, and that fear of hell is an appropriate tool for converting people to Christianity. In the film, Pirkle (playing himself) meets two tough guys who don’t believe in hell. Before Pirkle can convince them otherwise, one of the men is decapitated in a grisly motorcycle accident. The survivor is now confronting the reality that his friend is covered in “tormenting worms” in hell for eternity, and Pirkle’s ministering to him guides most of the action of the film. The film is very entertaining and atmospheric, but one can’t help but recoil at the lack of compassion Pirkle and his congregation seem to have for the average person, although “compassion” is relative and it’s clear Pirkle thinks he’s doing the right thing by spreading this dire message. Ash and Scott discuss - is Hell real? Will there be worms there? Will there be movies? Will the movies be good? We also compare the work of Estus Pirkle and Ron Ormond to the era of Hong Kong black magic movies that emerged not long after the release of THE BURNING HELL.

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