Since we are stuck at home, my wife and I tried the streaming service, Shudder. As horror fans, this has been a blessing. Shudder has a wide range of horror from the popular franchises like Friday the 13th, to Giallo movies, to weird shit that feels like it came from a video rental store. We have had it for two months and it barely feels like we have scratched the service.
One of those finds was Hell House LLC. Five people who build haunted house attractions come to the small town of Abaddon (first clue this was a bad idea)for their next Halloween-money maker. They buy/use an abandoned hotel (2nd clue) that has some creepy pentagrams already drawn (3rd clue!) in the basement. Hey, free decorations! What could go wrong?
Yeah, a lot. On the first night, people die and others go missing. The town shuts the house down. A group of investigators interview the only surviving member of the original five. Footage from the original five is mixed in with footage from the interviewers to make this movie.
This was a slow movie, but it uses its small budget well and it does some interesting things with your expectations. Turning the group’s asshole into the most sympathetic character is quite a transformation. A lot of the scares are lowkey and darn creepy. One of the best scares is a simple room transformation that still freaks me out to think about it.
Hell House 2 picks up a few years later with another investigative group looking into the Hell House. At this point, Hell House has become an urban legend and the town has had to set a police car outside the house to keep people from going in. The new group of heroes includes a psychic, the surviving member of the previous movie’s investigators, and some video journalists who really should have known better.
To my surprise, this movie does a great job of expanding on the mythos of Hell House and gives us a better idea of what exactly happened in the first movie, without demystifying the creepiness. I feel like if you didn’t like the first movie, you should wait until seeing the second to pass judgement.
This movie also does a great bit where it plays off the idea of the house becoming an urban legend. We get a lot of found footage scenes of other people going into the house for YouTube dares and other terrible reasons. It is almost a weird anthology of micro-short stories of Hell House trespassers. I could almost watch a movie that was just these short stories on their own.
In Hell House 3, a producer decides to stage Faust at the Hell House hotel. Two documentary people are there to film it. More weird shit happens. The fate of the Earth is at stake.
This movie has the largest budget as well as the largest cast. I didn’t find it as creepy as the 2nd movie, but to my great delight, it wrapped up the series in a very plausible and satisfying way. How many times do you get to say that about a horror franchise? The ending was great, and it almost warrants a second watch to see how everything lines up.
Now I will be honest. One of my comfort food genres is stupid people going where they don’t belong. The Hell House series scratches that itch and does it well. All three movies are found footage, which is another weakness of mine. I know some people can’t stand those movies but since a lot of the footage is from fixed cameras set up by the various groups, there is a lot less shaky camera nonsense than you get in other movies.
I highly recommend checking Hell House out.