Let’s see if the third time is the charm.
The first Hell House film is still one of the better faux-documentary found footage horrors out there. Honestly, it is a crime that more people haven’t seen it. I think the style and acting all worked quite well to create a fun and low budget film. It was a perfect example of how creativity in found footage can be used to great effect. It was funny to go back and read my original review where I was more critical. I do think some of the issues are still valid, but damn the movie stuck with me as I thought about the better aspects of it. Sure, the characters weren’t the best, but the film deserves some credit.
The second one didn’t grab me. We have a pattern of starting at the end and then piecing together a jumbled plot line. I don’t think it worked in the second and I don’t think it works in the third.
I think a major issue is the large amount of characters. It is difficult to keep up with who is who and which character belongs in which entry. We get kind of a double-dip of characters in that we are following several actors—so two roles for one person. On the one hand, I do think the series has done a good job keeping people believable (albeit not always likable).
This time around a millionaire Russell (Gabriel Chytry) has bought the hotel and is putting on a gothic interactive show based on Faust. The film doesn’t waste the setting (something I think the second one skimped on) and we are in the hotel quickly. Our millionaire lead is…odd? One of the weaker characters despite Chytry trying to be quirky.
A couple things happen in the first half that hurt the narrative overall. It has been fairly well established that there is something wrong with the hotel, but people still seem to doubt it. “Yeah I see spooky stuff but I’m sure I have just developed hallucinations suddenly—that is more logical.” Second, we end up watching people acting in front of camera instead of being candid—I think this reduces the charm of the film.
Still, the sheer volume of people in this film is probably the biggest weakness. I just couldn’t keep these people straight. It doesn’t help that the acting crew is fairly one dimension, which may be a commentary on that subculture, but it still made it hard to tell folks apart.
The film does things that actually indicate an awareness of the genre. Footage is reviewed (ohmahgawd someone looked at the footage), but the reaction isn’t what you’d expect more often than not. Also, some stuff is never mentioned despite other moments in the same segment being seen. This was a weird decision. We tend to have a mixed bag, which is common in this series.
We get more information on the lore that has been slowly built over three films now. It is interesting, mostly, but it also disrupts the pacing of the film. As the scope of the hotel and the town gets more in depth is becomes heavier for the narrative to function as a horror film. In short, the exposition seems to get too heavy.
The story structure is a bit too similar to the others. We have an overambitious leader who is unwilling to do anything despite mounting evidence. While we have some differences, the end result is familiar. It doesn’t help how much the ending is telegraphed.
The final act is a little overwrought. When horror films explain too much it becomes too easy to see the weaknesses. I thought the ending was overall pretty lame. It tries to tie it all together, but it just becomes a disappointment. I’m sure some will like it, but this one wasn’t for me.