By the time the original Hell House LLC was released in 2015, its safe to say that horror fans had enough of the Found Footage genre. The straight to DVD offering arrived with not much hype and it took a year later, even after the franchise that kick started this genre, The Blair Witch to release its third film, that people began to talk!
While the bitch in the woods was having an unfair low turn out at the box-office, there were whispers among the horror fans that there was a hidden beauty out there that deserved to be watch. A Found Footage horror that put the genre back on the map!
Its how I stumbled onto the original film! A few friends told me that I needed to watch it and one Friday afternoon, I sat down with a copy and low expectations, but a hour and a half later, I sat in awe, sweat dripping from my forehead because I actually had seen a horror that freaked me out.
Its very…very….rare these days, that horror films get to me, because as you get older and have watched so many from such a young age, you do get immune to the scares and jumps, but Hell House LLC, with those clowns and that basement……like I said in my review and I have told many since….the original is one of thee best Found Footage Horror films ever made!
Writer and Director Stephen Cognetti must take a huge amount of credit for somehow making a franchise out of this material. While the first could easily have been a self-contained horror, its sequel branched out the mythology and served more like a “calm before the storm”, with everything setting up for a final third film where the shackles are off and chaos and blood will reign.
While I enjoyed the second film, it did lose a bit of what made the original so good. The hitchhiker sequence itself is a spell-blinding scare and worth the watch alone, but the entire set-up did not quite reach the heights of its original, mostly because you cant catch the element of surprise twice, which nearly every sequel suffers from.
Thankfully the third film does somehow remarkably grab your horror senses and remind you just how much you loved the original film. How Cognetti manages it, I mention in a bit, but first how do we get people back into that hotel for a third time?
Much like the previous films we have a bunch of talking heads informing us of yet another incident that had occurred in the hotel. Its 2018, nine years after the events of the original and Millionaire entrepreneur Russell Wynn (Gabriel Chytry) has opened the doors. With a scar on his face after surviving a car crash, Wynn wants to stage his successful interactive show Insomnia in the hotel, where the actors will stage the show Faust, with an audience walking among them.
Filming with her crew is Morning Mysteries host Vanessa Shepherd (Elizabeth Vermilyea) who like everyone in the hotel, is aware of its past and want’s to film everything up until the opening night. Hoping to catch anything spooky and find an explanation of what is actually happening at the hotel.
To answer “Why would people go back into that hotel?”. Well its simple! -Money!! If the actors see anything they think is wrong and not right, Wynn just throws money at them. Its a good enough reason for them to stay but also Cognetti cleverly also shows one or two people having the sense to say, “nope…I am out of here?!” which stops the viewer from questioning the usual moans about Found Footage!
Also as the film is presented in a Faux Documentary, its give the viewer an extra scare. The “When we looked back at the footage” moments and we get to see something that we missed on first watch- you will get spooked and sucked in to the whole spooky going on.
How Cognetti manages to capture the essence of his original film is by cleverly ripping off scenes that worked so brilliantly first time. Some may frown and believe its not offering nothing new, but when you have such a strong fan base who loved it first time round, then you can see why Cognetti has gone down this route.
Take for instance the “Dare” set-piece! Now this is the best moment of the entire film. A wonderful scare fest that had those flaming clowns back in the basement and had me gripping the side of my arm rest. Honestly its really, really good……much scarier than anything the much more popular Pennywise could muster up and I just want to say thank you for the makers in delivering such a brilliant reminder of what horror can do.
But take away all that acclaim and what we have is nothing more than a scene we saw in the original film. Much like that “Night Visitor” moment that fans lapped up four years back, we get a variation of that here, its still a good set-piece but you can see why Cognetti went with the “If its not broke” rule and to be fair it works.
What doesn’t work is the last 15 minutes. Now Cognetti has done brilliantly in uniting all three films, with some wonderful call backs, some great cameos and a sense that what we have is one big story being told in a trilogy and with a beginning..middle….and end!
But the finale left me rather cold! The build up deserved a much better chaotic end than what we had. We don’t get the all out frightfest I expected or the fans needed, which is a huge shame as the franchise deserved it.
There is a neat twist involving one character and the final shot is bittersweet, but from such build up, you can’t help but feel let down-which is a shame!
But maybe that’s just me because up until then these set of films have done things not many can. I was scared of that clown, scared of that basement and will never ever pick up a Hitchhiker. Haunted Houses attractions? Nope……I rather be home watching a horror set in one.
Hell House LLC has left a mark that horror is still alive! That we don’t need box -office releases to scare us. That found footage horror can still work and all the credit must go to Stephen Cognetti who surely is a director destined for big things.
Blair Witch my be the Granddaddy that many inspire too, but even that franchise botched its sequels – Hell House LLC has managed to deliver three strong films that will continue to find love for many years.
I may have not been totally satisfied of the finale, but some of you will and us fans will all agree on one important thing, that, The Abaddon Hotel may have closed its doors for the last time, but what its left behind is this:
The Hell House LLC trilogy is without question one of the best found footage horrors ever made…..
Should be three stars because of that ending, but that “Dare” set-piece is worth the watch alone!