It can often be difficult to understand why people would get involved in a cult, but there is certainly an allure for some to fringe groups that seem to offer answers – no matter how odd or fantastical it seems from the outside. The documentary Holy Hell, which got great notices following its Sundance debut (the words ‘fascinating’ and ‘chilling’ turned up a lot in review), takes a look at what happened to those who followed Michel, who founded Los Angeles-based spiritual community known as The Buddha Field.
Michel was gay, although sex was forbidden among the members of the community. Will Allen joined Buddhafield as their videographer, and as Michel’s personal masseuse. Eventually the relationship between master and pupil turned sexual, but even then the life of peace and harmony they were all promised held everything together.
As so often seems to happen with cults though, the members began to see things about Michel they didn’t like – not least his paranoia, need for control, secrecy and demanding nature, as well as revelations about his past and what he had been forcing members of the community to do. Things started to collapse and Will escaped, taking much of the footage he shot with him, which has become the basis for Holy Hell. Take a look at the trailer below.