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John’s Horror Corner: Hell House LLC (2015), a documentary-style found footage horror about a Halloween haunted house-gone-wrong.

August 21, 2019

MY CALL: Passable (even if forgettable) mindless popcorn fodder. Kinda’ fun, but insultingly bad in terms of intelligent horror film fare. MORE MOVIES LIKE Hell House LLC: For more mockumentary-esque or documentary-gone-wrong horror I’d strongly recommend Lake Mungo (2008), The Last Exorcism (2010), Grave Encounters (2011), Grave Encounters 2 (2012), The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), Demonic (2015), Ghost Stories (2017) and Butterfly Kisses (2018).

Years following a tragic accident at the Abaddon Hotel’s Halloween haunted house attraction (Hell House) results in the death numerous patrons and staff, filmmakers (including Alice Bahlke; Hell House LLC II) embark on a documentary investigation to uncover what really happened. Their investigation is based on found footage from the Hell House staff’s…

Hell House is run by a five-man crew with a history of finding remote, rundown properties and turning them into scary funhouse profits. Paul (Gore Abrams; Hell House LLC III), Sara (Ryan Jennifer Jones; Hell House LLC III), Tony (Jared Hacker; Hell House LLC III), Mack (Adam Schneider; Dark Skies, Hell House LLC II) and Alex (Danny Bellini; The Drifter, Hell House LLC II-III) plan their Halloween haunted house… this time in an already haunted house.

Writer/director Stephen Cognetti (Hell House LLC II-III) presents this film as a documentary in style, complete with interviewee/witness testimonials, YouTube videos and news clips. For this reason, the film is a bit less found footage-ish and closer to Lake Mungo (2008) or Butterfly Kisses (2018) than pure found footage films. Although much of this movie does feel like found footage with occasional docu-content sprinkled here and there; as if found footage bookended with docu-ness.

The acting is, at times, barely passable (especially during rigidly acted news clip scenes) and the writing isn’t great either. But honestly, this hardly seems to matter since the overall execution and cultivation of atmosphere is working for me (in the first 10-20 minutes). As I watched the rather engaging opening scenes, clips, testimonials, etc., I found myself wanting to know what happened to those people at the haunted house attraction. I wasn’t at the edge of my seat with tension, but I was clearly interested. That’s pretty impressive for the first 8-10 minutes of any horror movie. But as the film progresses, I find myself sadly less and less impressed. The survivors of the haunted house tragedy have either killed themselves or refuse to talk—an annoying cliché that fails to contribute additional mystery and somewhat squanders the briefly cohesive mood.

[Now almost hallway through the film…] I’m sorry, but I need to break into some SPOILERS to express how this film is beginning to so deeply disappointing me. In execution, the scares are effective and creepy—and for a random popcorn date night, this may prove entertaining even if forgettable. But in concept, they are utterly stupid. The notion that haunting ghosts would constantly “turn the heads” of rigid mannequins or “possess” evil clown mannequins (in the manner presented here) and then do nothing with such manifestations is simply aggravating. If you want to do evil dolls, then do evil dolls. Is this a good way to get cheap scares on a budget? Sure, I suppose. But there are plenty of other creative ways to do this—e.g., Paranormal Activity (2007). I feel like this is insulting the intelligence of thoughtful horror fans. But is it entertaining in the moment? I guess so, sure. It’s just that right after the moment passes, I’m annoyed. This movie pulls a lot of nonsense; inexplicable nonsense. If you’re going to animate clownnequins, then make them dangerous!

The final “scare” scenes were upsettingly stupid and, at this point, I’ve lost all possible respect for this film. The writing is so incredibly shallow. It even ends with the #1 found footage faux pas: its ending suggests that no one would have ever found the footage in the first place and, oh right, moreover no one would have edited together all the footage and clips and testimonials, etc., into an actual film. Dumb.

Dumb… but again, in execution, I have no problem seeing how “fun” this jumpy creepy film could be for others—especially, again, for popcorn/date night fodder. It’s hard to describe. I was unimpressed, I was mindlessly entertained, and I was angered. All that said, I kind of want to see part II. Go figure.

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