Saturday, October 7, 2017

Horror Film Review

Hell House LLC (2015):  One might imagine that by now the found-footage/mockumentary craze would have burned itself out, that every conceivable plot has been shot with the telltale shaky camera.  Ever since The Blair Witch Project, I estimate that 87% of these films are stinky.  I’ve certainly reviewed my share, and now usually avoid them as earnestly as a vampire avoids the sun.  So when my boyfriend wanted to watch Hell House LLC, I fully expected it to fall into the stinky 87%.  It didn’t.  What can I say?  Thirteen is my lucky number.

As her subject, a documentary filmmaker has chosen the unexplained massacre that occurred at a haunted attraction 5 years ago.  No one, not the police, not the survivors seem to know what really happened on that opening night that cost the  lives of 15 people.  Some murky smartphone video shot by a survivor offers no answers and only shows a logjam of panicked customers trying desperately to flee the basement.  Chilling, yes.  Helpful?  Not so much.  The filmmaker lucks out when the only surviving member of the attraction’s staff a comes forward to not only be interviewed but also to hand over video of what really took place. 

And so in that video…

Every Halloween, Alex (Danny Bellini) and his friends find a location in or around New York and create a haunted house attraction to make some dough.  This time it’s a dilapidated hotel, abandoned decades ago, in the small town of Abaddon, NY.  Why was it abandoned?  Bad things happened there.  Very bad things.  Unfortunately, neither Alex nor his friends, Sara (Ryan Jennifer Jones), Paul (Gore Abrams), Tony (Jared Hacker), and Mac (Adam Schneider) bothered to research the history of the site.  Although one would think the pentagram on the basement wall would have been a clue.  Nevertheless, they get the lights working and for a month, live in the creepy place while they work at transforming it into a world-class haunted house.  During that month, weird shit goes down.  Shit that would drive any sensible human away…screaming.  But no, money and some inexplicable loyalty to Alex (who’s kind of a douchebag) prevents such a logical course of action.  And boy do they pay for it.

During the month of preparation, they record everything.  So what’s some of the weird shit that goes down?  A clown mannequin, no…a fucking terrifying clown mannequin moves from the basement to a variety of unexpected places, usually at night.  Sara sleepwalks and speaks in tongues.  Paul encounters what can only be a ghost in his room and vanishes.  He’s later found in the basement, catatonic.  The video of a dress rehearsal reveals more monsters in the shadows than there should be.  And then there’s the unexplained shrieking.  The show, however, must go on.  Apparently.  Morons.  There is a nifty twist toward the end that I did not expect.  It kind of makes the whole 93 minutes worthwhile.

I must rant about one thing.  After one particular bizarre occurrence, Tony, utterly terrified, comes unglued and raves at Alex, shouting that he must call it off.  Of course Alex refuses and Tony quits and storms out.  Mac catches up with him, says there’s something he (Tony) doesn’t know.  Cut to Tony sitting in a field, just staring.  Mac comes over and Tony tells him that yes, of course he’ll stay, how could he not?  What did Mac tell him that could have swayed Tony so quickly and decisively?  That’s my complaint:  We.  Don’t.  Know.   How does keeping this answer from us enhance the story?  It doesn’t.  Do we ever find out?  Hell, no.  Grrr….thinking about now pisses me off all over again.

The Skinny

Acting:  Not exactly theater in the round but they’re all passable as real people.  The documentary filmmaker is annoying.
Story:  About as unique as a man named John Smith eating vanilla ice cream.  That being said, it’s not the script but the execution.
Direction:  This really could have been a mess.  A documentary within a documentary within a documentary.  Fortunately, it was all cobbled together in a manner that squeezed out the maximum amount of thrills and chills.
Production Values:  Ironically, the film was shot in Pennsylvania at a real haunted attraction that had once been a hotel.  So that’s groovy and most definitely adds to the realism.  On the downside, the lighting is muddy on occasion and the sound…well, I recommend turning on the subtitles.
Gore/FX:  There is a itty bitty bit of blood but that’s about it.  No CGI that I could see.  They did their f/x old school. 
Scares:  There are.  Too many to count, if I’m honest.  My boyfriend, also a horror nerd, hid behind a pillow for half the movie if that tells you anything.
Ending:  Expected but in an unexpected way.  There’s this twist, see…
Verdict:  Should you watch Hell House LLC?  You really should.  It's a surprisingly fresh take on an overused sub genre.   

Rating:  4 out of 5

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