By Mark Bell | October 17, 2013

Tristan Newcomb’s mockumentary Jesus Hates You Now is a gonzo satire of cults, cult deprogramming, religion and puppetry. Kevin (Benjamin Bruce Bales) thinks that he has escaped from the religious cult known as Eternal Hearth Ministries, only to be kidnapped by what he thinks is a member of the cult. With a camera strapped to his forehead and his body tied to a chair, Kevin is forced to watch a strange program on TV, starring a puppet, dressed like a nun, whose name is Barry.

Barry has a sometimes gentle, soothing voice, and other times a nutty stream-of-consciousness way of speaking about any and everything, including ominous warnings about the welfare of Kevin’s genitalia. As weird imagery floats on the screen, Kevin gets more and more distraught at what he sees and hears, and behind the scenes, we’re let in on a little secret: the cult didn’t kidnap Kevin, Dr. Gavin H. Grant (Tristan Newcomb) did, and he’s doing his best to deprogram Kevin’s cult loyalties. His methods are more than a little questionable, however.

And thus what we’re presented is a unique film, an almost experimental experience as we go through the deprogramming with Kevin, via his view from the camera strapped to his forehead, intercut with the TV program footage and, eventually, spliced together with interview segments with Dr. Grant, as he explains his methodology. It’s an absurd mix of styles and visual insanity, lorded over by disturbing puppetry, and altogether unforgettable.

I mean, imagine you see a guy with a piñata head and, as he is beaten to head-splitting, candy-spewing greatness, you get commentary from a puppet along the lines of “Masturbating doesn’t feel half as good as beating the s**t out of a masturbator. Isn’t that weird? That’s so weird.” That’s the kind of fun you’re in for with this one. To say it’s a trip would be an understatement.

I enjoyed the film, insomuch as someone can enjoy this type of experience, but I do think it became a little too repetitive by the end. Even as Dr. Grant tries to explain why there’s so much penis talk and why it is such a focus of his deprogramming, it doesn’t change the fact that, after a while, you’re just sick of hearing a puppet threaten some dude’s dick. Seemingly insane monologues about God as a voyeur who has seen every depraved act of humanity as it happens are intriguing, repetitious focus on genitalia, not so much.

So I came out enjoying the film for its batshit insane nature, appreciated the satire it employs and overall found it a memorably unique experience. I didn’t love it, however, and perhaps if it was a bit shorter or just threw in even more strangeness, it’d have won me over completely. It’s still a film I’d mention in conversation, however, though I’d stop short of calling it a must-see. Then again, that even depends on who I’m talking to…

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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