F*&%cking found footage.
Hell House LLC is about a haunted house attraction that is actually haunted. The premise is fairly simple, the Hell House company builds haunted houses for Halloween to make money. However, one year they choose an old abandoned hotel in Abaddon, New York, and chaos ensues. Now, several years later, a documentary crew is working to find out what exactly happened.
Hell House does a few things interestingly, a few things competently, and a few things poorly—so we have quite the mixed bag. The entire film is found footage, so if you’re sick of that subgenre you might overlook this one, but it is one of the better found footage films as of late.
We might see the most believable excuse for someone to be filming everything in this movie. The characters routinely complain that the cameraman refuses to do any work, and would rather film instead. Further, the haunts come slowly, and the buildup is nice once the film gets underway.
One of the largest issues in the movie is that it starts at the end, kind of, and then goes to future, and then the past. It is a little disorienting to figure out who is who and when is when. The film throws a lot in the air to create mystery, and it mostly does a decent job bringing everything together. However, there are a few throw away plots, the most egregious being that the town hid information from people, but they never fully explain why.
Another major issue is that we have already more or less seen the conclusion, so there is an expectation of buildup throughout the narrative. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t fully deliver the goods once the chaos starts occurring. We instead get blurred and shaky images at the villains that make the scares harder to see or comprehend. Found footage films seem to be getting better at the meat of the movie, but are still struggling with the end.
In a way, the movie writes itself into a bit of a corner. Since we know where everything is going the paranormal events witnessed in the first hour become increasingly illogical. The group’s leader Alex (Danny Bellinni) is unyielding in getting the job done, even in the face of filmed paranormal events. At first, this is believable, and Alex is a great unlikable and stubborn character, but it becomes preposterous. The issue of forging ahead no matter is nothing new to horror films, even Jaws couldn’t close the beach for money reasons. Although it is a known trope it is still annoying.
Despite some narrative oddities, the characters are overall believable. The scares showcase fun camera and framing tricks that do amp up the suspense quite nicely. The slow-burning and quiet scares (for lack of a better term) work a lot better here because they are framed with a good eye. Once too much is moving (and too many people are in the scene) the framing suffers a bit.
The film also embraces the plethora of film types that currently exist. We have cell phone video, youtube streams, handhelds, and security cams. While some of it is not done perfectly (I think the security cams were under-utilized) it is nice to see more experimentation in how found footage can work. I know that a lot of people are tired of the subgenre, and there are a lot of bad ones out there, but this is an example of a good found footage film. 6.5/10