The unreleased 1998 documentary “Frat House”
In 1997, Todd Phillips and Andrew Gurland created a film documenting the savagely brutal hazing rituals that take place during Hell Week at U.S. college fraternities. Frat House was completed and won the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at 1998’s Sundance Film Festival, an award that was later rescinded. HBO was slated to air it later that year, but pulled it for reasons that remain debatable to this day. It has never seen an official release.
Frat House (60 minutes, Google video, )
Lawyers representing several fraternity organizations and frat brothers charged that Phillips and Gurland, among other things, staged events, recreated scenes, and that the frat featured in the most severe segments doesn’t pledge during the spring semester when the footage was shot.
In interviews, the filmmakers stood by their work, saying the only questionable matter was that some of the pledges were in fact already members of the fraternity.
In order to get a firsthand view of the happenings, Phillips and Gurland pledged and went through Hell Week at two northeastern U.S. schools. I’m not going to spoil the way it turns out, but it’s a compelling and interesting watch. Whether or not it was fabricated, the film is a horrifying and realistic exploration of a side of undergrad life that most of us happily avoided.
Todd Phillips had previously directed Hated: G.G. Allin and & the Murder Junkies and then went on to the big time, helming such… um… classics as Road Trip and Old School. Andrew Gurland went on to make Mail Order Wife, a verry well done and… well, fake documentary.