You’ve Never Been Completely Honest is not an easy watch but certainly, one that feels necessary in this day and age.

You’ve Never Been Completely Honest (2022) Review By Mark McPherson

Published on February 10, 2023

Rating 4 /5

In the early 1970s, Gene Church underwent a training course from a multi-level marketing firm. The training occurred at the Hyatt House motel in Palo Alto, California. But this was no mere lecture or playful training exercise. This training was a work of humiliation and dehumanization, where men were forced to undress and be tortured in various ways. Church documented his experience in the shocking book The Pit: A Group Encounter Defiled. Many years later, an unearthed interview with him gave more detail and explanation for the horrifying experience. The recovered interview has been preserved in this film, You’ve Never Been Completely Honest, reenacting this hideous ordeal through live-action and animation.

Most of this audio interview feels like an abridged version of Church’s dark brush with cruelty at this motel. He describes in detail the process of Leadership Dynamics, where, for a hefty price, employees could move up in management. What sounds like a training event soon turns into a tortuous hazing. The participants were stripped of their clothes and forced to view themselves as dead, hammering home that point by forcing participants to stay in coffins. The activities in breaking down the individual soon take on more vile forms, where men are urinated upon and forcibly held down to feel like lesser human beings. By the end of the experience, Church recalls crying heavily after the process was complete when the instructor's words pierced his soul.

Church’s audio is staged with both surreality and horror for the situation. This film turns the vivid imagination one would depict when hearing this information into a visualized hell. The live-action footage is kept close, retro, and off-putting, featuring actors who look uncertain and lost in this dark training seminar. The animation is perfectly vile, showcasing the ugliness of the situation with all the disturbing details intact. There’s something far more sinister about depicting scenes of group urination on an individual, being trapped in a coffin, and the activity of being held down with animation. These are visuals that feel more like the nightmares they most likely induced.

Though Church’s experience was decades ago, his story remains relevant. Leadership Dynamics could be considered the groundwork for large-group awareness training that would become a plague of the New Age and Self-Help movements. The film also highlights this through the epilogue that showcases similar events. One might scoff at the comparison, stating that not all large-group awareness training is as inhuman as stripping and pissing on the individual. That doesn’t, however, make them any less dehumanizing. Many are brainwashing seminars on the same level as cults, meant to place the onus of awareness on the individual by shattering their conceptions of self. While that may sound progressive on a cerebral level, the more important part is building the self up again into something better. Since Church’s experience didn’t exactly lead to that path, the dynamics of this training seem to be more about the destruction of the individual than anything else.

You’ve Never Been Completely Honest is not an easy watch but certainly, one that feels necessary in this day and age. The prevalence of more cults and highly questionable training in the age of social media has turned Church’s writings and interviews into something highly prolific. So many of these inhuman practices continue by either the secrecy of their formats or the denial of the contributors. This film is a shocking wake-up call to take matters like this seriously, lest some unfortunate souls find themselves lying naked in a coffin to prove their worth.

Written By

Mark McPherson

Written By

Mark McPherson

Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.

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