Sometimes it seems that all cults are built from the same ingredients: a charismatic, but weird, frontman; techniques designed to lose the self, but also to sever members from any external influence; the systematic harvesting by the organisation of the value of its members labour; sexual abuse. Watching 'Holy Hell', the story of one such cult, the striking thing is how much of the cult's history has been caught on film (in no small part due to the narcissism of its leader); the story, however, seems very familliar, and not unlike not only the story of other obviously similar cults, but also the story of Michael Jackson as recently covered in 'Leaving Neverland'. What's interesting for the outsider is that, while in some senses brainwashed, the cult members can't be said to have simply "lost their minds"; they speak logically and eloquently about their experiences, and sometimes with more respect for the cult they have left than the viewer might consider justified. Again, this is familliar from other films about cults; and
shockingly, the man behind the sect featured here is still leading a group of devoted disciples. It's not obvious how society should deal with groups that are, at some level, voluntarily constituted, yet which act so clearly against their own members' interests. All we can do, perhaps, is to look out for our friends.