2015, Movies

Hell House LLC (2015, Stephen Cognetti)

This is an okay found footage horror film that has some decent scares but also has a lot wrong with it. Once you start thinking about it, as usual, things start to fall apart.

Way after the peak of the found footage craze, it’s kind of remarkable that people are still finding reasonable conceits for it. And this is a pretty reasonable conceit, for the cliched found footage genre: a haunted house production company does its latest haunted house in a creepy, old hotel.

The film gets off to a bad start, with its faux documentary opening feeling forced, cliched and pretty low budget. Honestly, for the first little while I was really worried about how bad this movie was going to be.

But things pick up once the survivor appears and starts telling her story, which conveniently has tons of footage. The middle section is the best part, with the team slowly discovering their haunted hotel is in fact haunted. There are some genuine jump scares and some pretty creepy moments. The middle works well.

There are the usual problems with found footage – why on earth are they recording everything? And there are some unforeseen issues. When trying to convince the boss that the place is actually haunted, they only once actually go to the footage that they literally just recorded. (And we just saw them re-watch it the first time someone is scared!) This is so unbelievably stupid, it helps to really not think about it.

As others have pointed out, another ridiculous thing is that nobody ever turns on the lights. But that’s typical of many horror movies.

Another issue is that the documentary occasionally re-intrudes, sapping any creepiness momentum. (And, occasionally, for no reason, there are flashbacks and flashforwards in the footage, which is never explained.)

Things get back into messy found footage territory for the climax and that whole section is far less scary than it should be in part because it’s hard to figure out what is going on. They have cameras everywhere but the basement and that seems like a good reason to at least break up some of the hard-to-watch handheld camera footage. (Also, they really break up a lot of it with “distortion” or whatever which makes it harder to watch.)

The denouement/final scare is also a problem because it gets too meta but also because it raises even more questions about the hotel. I won’t mention the issue as it’s a massive spoiler but it feels like it violates the rules of a haunted house.

Still, the middle section was pretty creepy and I jumped a few times. I think this movie could have been a lot better without the found footage concept or just less of the shaky camera nonsense. But it’s definitely better than it feels like it’s going to be when you’re enduring that opening exposition.


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