Hell House LLC

Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel

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Eight years after the Hell House LLC tragedy, and the subsequent disappearance of a documentary film crew, the mystery of the Abaddon Hotel remains unsolved. An anonymous tip sent to a journalist claims all the evidence of what happened is hidden inside the hotel. The journalist and her crew, along with the only surviving member of the original documentary crew, decide to go back to the hotel to find the truth. They will have to sneak past police and break in, but the real battle will be getting out.

The highly anticipated sequel to Hell House LLC hit Shudder just in time for the Halloween season. Stephen Cognetti returns as writer and director of this found footage haunted house flick. The sequel is filmed similarly to the first film. There are documentary filmmaker shots, videos from phones and handheld devices, news reports, and interviews. This allows the filmmakers to include multiple different perspectives outside the main cast of characters. The scares are also done in a very similar way. They are subtle, and generally lack jump scares. This makes the film itself terrifying, but the fright factor has a lasting effect even after the film is over. Fans will recognize a couple of the more iconic frightening faces, including the absolutely creepy clown mannequin and the haunting ghost woman.

Unfortunately, there are certain aspects of the plot that make Hell House LLC II less successful than its predecessor. One of my only critical notes in the first one was a few unanswered questions. In a haunting film it is fine to have those, but there were some parts left a little too ambiguous. This film goes in the polar opposite direction. Not only does the plot try to tie up every loose end in this film, but it even goes on to answer the questions I had from the first film. The filmmakers end up putting everything into a neat package that is almost too clean. The film goes into so much explanation that it slows the climax to a crawl, taking any suspense out of the moment. The suspense leading up to that moment makes up for the sudden halt, but the climax still comes across as lackluster.

The performances are a bit of a mixed bag. Vasile Flutur (Far From Here) gives the strongest performance as Mitchell. He is intense, skeptical, but he also strives to find the truth behind the disappearance of his friends. A less enjoyable performance came from Jillian Geurts (The Algebra of Need) as the journalist, Jessica. This is partly due to writing and partly the performance itself. In terms of the writing, Jessica is just a generally unlikeable character because of her unwavering need to get the scoop on the history of the hotel. Geurts’ performance comes across as a bit over-rehearsed and her delivery is sometimes a bit exaggerated. It almost feels like a performance for the stage, which doesn’t fit well with the tone of this film. Kyle Ingleman (Attack of the Slime People) delivers a similar performance to Geurts, but it works better for his role as the psychic, Brock Davies.

One common theme amongst all the characters, perhaps with the exception of Brock Davies, is that the motives behind their actions don’t quite come across. In a found footage film it is so important to convey why these people would put themselves in these situations and film the entire time. The first film did this successfully, but it doesn’t hold up as well in the sequel. Davies can be written off because he is a TV psychic, so communicating with the spirits in the Abaddon Hotel and getting it on film would be huge for his career. As for the others, some of their motivations for going to the hotel make sense, but their reasons for staying and continuing to film are a bit hazy at best.

With the use of simplistic scares the filmmakers wisely went with simple effects as well. As I mentioned before, the eerie clown mannequin makes an appearance in this film. Not only is this the most frightening and simple look, but it is also the source of some of the most spine-chilling scares. There are other makeup looks done for some of the ghosts seen in the hotel that are the same as in the previous film, but they are more visible in Hell House LLC II. This may not have been a wise decision, as I am a firm believer in less is more when showing ghosts/creatures in horror films. The brighter lighting makes it more obvious that these characters look as if they are from a Halloween haunt, but that also lends itself well to idea the of this location being the ultimate haunted house.

Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel has many hits and misses. What works well is the subtle scares, which start earlier in the film than fans saw in its predecessor. It is also great to get some of the answers I was looking for in the first film. What doesn’t work as well is the film’s overall lack of direction. It doesn’t flow quite as well, likely because a lot of effort was put in making everything clear and obvious to the audience. It results in a subdued climax that should have packed more of a punch. Fans who enjoyed the first film will likely be disappointed, but this sequel is still likely to give you chills and make you avoid any abandoned hotels for a while.

OVERALL RATING: 5.5/10

 

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Favorite Things: Best of 2017

Disclaimer: 2017 was a busy, stressful, and emotional year. Between working full time, going to school full time, trying to maintain this website, and dealing with personal issues, I have neglected my site more than I care to admit. As a result there are several films I saw in 2017 that I unfortunately never had time to write reviews for. Instead of stressing out about it and trying to cram multiple reviews into the last few days of the year, I’ve decided to instead start 2018 with a clean slate. Some of the films in my top 10 list I did not write reviews for, but I will include a number rating for those films and links to the full reviews for others.

Ok, now for the fun stuff. There were many amazing great horror films, shorts, and TV shows in 2017. Here are my top picks for the year!

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2017

10. It Comes at Night

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This film suffered from misleading advertising. Between the name and the trailer, audiences got the impression it was going to be a very different film than what they got. Looking past that, It Comes at Night is still an intense film that puts audiences in the frame of mind of the main characters. All we know is there is an end-of-the-world type virus killing everyone, but no one knows anything more about the virus or what is going on in the rest of the world. The concept, along with a stellar performance from Joel Edgerton (The Gift), makes for a suspenseful film that sticks with you. OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

9. A Dark Song

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A Dark Song is a polarizing film. The majority of the plot is a slow burn showing the meticulous ritual a mother goes through to get revenge on those who killed her son. The climax then goes in a wildly different direction leading to a fascinating image that some will love and others will hate. Personally, I thought it all worked well together, and the two leads are both fantastic, especially Catherine Walker (Critical) as Sophia. Click here for my full review.

8. IT (2017)

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The latest adaptation may not have had the scares everyone expected, but it was exciting, well written, and had a superb cast of young actors. This film managed to make Pennywise a much more terrifying monster because they actually showed him being violent towards kids, something lacking in the first adaptation (and something many horror films don’t have the guts to do). This film makes me excited to see part two. Click here for my full review.

7. Hell House LLC

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There is one thing that makes me love Hell House LLC so much; it is not only the scariest film I saw in 2017, but it is also the scariest film I can think of in recent memory. Writer/director Stephen Cognetti took the more subtle approach with his scares, and it definitely paid off. This film is a perfect example of found footage done right. Click here for my full review.

6. The Devil’s Candy

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Metal music and the devil go hand-in-hand in The Devil’s Candy. The film is haunting and atmospheric, utilizing music to drive the plot down a dark and twisted path. The great story is accompanied by an even greater performance by none other than Ethan Embry (Empire Records). This could be Embry’s most powerful performance yet. Click here for my full review.

5. Gerald’s Game

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I hadn’t read Stephen King’s book before seeing Gerald’s Game. The plot sounds like something that wouldn’t work in a feature length film, but director Mike Flanagan made a thrilling and suspenseful film with various scenes that won’t leave my mind anytime soon. The film also has one of the strongest female performances of the year from Carla Gugino (San Andreas). OVERALL RATING: 8/10

4. Tragedy Girls

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Tragedy Girls was one of the most fun film experiences I had this year. It is disturbing, hilarious, and sweet all at the same time. Both Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) deliver hilarious performances with great chemistry between the two of them. The film perfectly displayed the lives of teenage girls; these teenage girls just happen to be serial killers. OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

3. Get Out

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Jordan Peele gave audiences a socially poignant thriller that is equal parts disturbing and funny. Get Out may be one of the most important horror films to come out this year because of the social climate throughout the country. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s just a genuinely great film with an interesting story and lots of little hidden meanings throughout. Click here for my full review.

2. Raw

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For most of the year Raw held the number 1 spot on my list of favorite films in 2017. While it got bumped at the last minute, this film still stands out in my mind. Raw is a French film focusing on a girl going through a sexual awakening while also discovering she has cannibalistic tendencies. The film is intense, unsettling, and even beautiful. Click here for my full review.

1. The Shape of Water

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The Shape of Water is not only my favorite film of 2017, but it just might be my new favorite film of all time. It is visually stunning, well acted, and has a beautiful story that many people will be able to relate to. Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Elisa. Guillermo del Toro yet again proves that he is a master of his craft with this gorgeous piece of art. Click here for my full review.

Honorable mention: Dave Made a Maze, The Night Watchmen, The Babysitter, Boys in the Trees, Better Watch Out.

TOP SHORT FILMS OF 2017

TOP TV SHOWS OF 2017

  • The Exorcist
  • Stranger Things
  • Bates Motel (series ended in 2017)
  • American Horror Story: Cult
  • Grimm (series ended in 2017)

Hell House LLC

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Five years ago several people were killed in a haunted house attraction due to an unknown malfunction. The dead included many patrons as well as most of the crew. Now a documentary team is trying to put the pieces together and discover the truth of what happened that night. When a survivor of that night comes forward with new information the documentary crew decides to go back to the site of the haunted attraction. They soon discover some doors are better left closed.

Hell House LLC seems like it would be just another found footage film. While is doesn’t reinvent the subgenre, it definitely excels at it. The plot is interesting, focusing on a group of friends who build haunted house attractions for Halloween every year. This year the hotel they choose for their attraction has a very dark history. Over time things become more bizarre, leading to the disastrous opening night. This is entertaining enough, but what makes Hell House LLC stand out is the characters, the logic, and the subtle scares (most of which I will discuss later). What I will say now is that one of the most difficult things for a fount footage film to achieve is a reason for the characters to keep filming, even when things have gone horribly wrong. The filmmakers do an excellent job, for the most part, of logically explaining to the audience why the footage continues past when many people would stop. There is only one scene that leaves me with more questions than answers, but it doesn’t disrupt the filming logic.

I had the opportunity to watch this film twice in a very short period of time. The first time I watched it on a streaming service per a recommendation. The second time I watched it after receiving an email from the filmmakers with a screener for the extended director’s cut version. When watching the director’s cut I expected the aforementioned scene to be extended and further explained, but sadly it was not. It strongly hints that there is something more going on beyond what is shown to the audience, but we never get to learn what that is. While both versions of the film are great, I would recommend the extended director’s cut as it provides more character development and shows a bit more of what happened on opening night.

The most important thing I want to say is, despite watching the film two times in roughly two weeks, I was terrified during both viewings. A statement from writer/director Stephen Cognetti said, “My intent for Hell House LLC was to produce a slow burn of subtle, yet building scares. I have never been a fan of jump scares or music aided scares. My favorite type of scares in horror has always been the little things caught in the background that the protagonists are not immediately aware of. I worked to embody these sensibilities in Hell House LLC.” I too prefer the subtle scares in horror films. I can say that Cognetti skillfully achieves his goal, resulting in a truly frightening film. He creates the kind of subtle scares that stick with audiences long after the film has ended.

In a found footage film it is important the characters come across as compelling, and the characters must also have great chemistry. Nothing can ruin a found footage film more quickly than an unlikable cast. Hell House LLC has a cast of characters that are very well acted, and the chemistry between them feels very genuine. While the entire cast is fantastic, there are two standout performances for me. The first is Ryan Jennifer (I’d Kill For You) as the lone female of the group, Sara. Jones perfectly conveys trying to be one of the boys, experiencing fear, and balancing that fear with trying to be supportive of the team. Gore Abrams (Let Me Make You a Martyr) also stands out as Paul. Paul is a bit of a typical stereotype often found in modern horror films; the somewhat perverted friend with a heart of gold. What makes Abrams’ performance so memorable is how genuinely funny and enjoyable his character is. Even while his character is the focus of many scares, Abrams still manages to do or say something that delivers a laugh. Honorable mention goes to the remaining actors who made up the Hell House team; Danny Bellini (The Drifter), Jared Hacker (Pact), and Adam Schneider (Dark Skies).

If you enjoy quality found footage, and find subtle scares to be the most terrifying, then Hell House LLC is the film for you. It is the perfect Halloween horror flick to watch with a group if you want a good scare. There are only a few minor details that could be altered to get rid of one or two unanswered questions. Hell House LLC has compelling characters, chilling scares, and a simple yet interesting story. As someone who has seen this film more than once I can also say the scares hold up on second viewing. If my review has convinced you to see the film, I would suggest putting in the extra effort to see the director’s cut. This film will likely become an annual Halloween must-watch.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10