Monday, June 3, 2019

Not a Visual Medium

To understand my feelings on Hell House LLC, you could take a quick trip down recent memory lane and read my review of The Houses October Built. Though the newer film focuses on the people that make haunts and THOB follows its fans, they both kind of hate their audience, or just feel as if we're unworthy of actually seeing anything.

Shaky cam is entirely understandable in found footage as a storytelling device, but when you have actual human beings who are going to WATCH (or try to) your movie, maybe find another way to express chaos and fear. Likewise, while it's entirely believable that a group of twentysomething friends might all be white, it's also entirely uninteresting when every single member of the cast--and this includes supporting characters and extras--is white, don't you, as a filmmaker, at SOME point look back and notice that?

Also, like 90% of found footage or slashers focusing on young-ish characters, everyone is awful and the world is no worse for their deaths.

Guys, I might be a little grumpy.

Quick Plot: One year ago, a mysterious massacre occurred at an upstate New York Halloween haunt. Some leaked youtube videos and camera footage have left clues as to what went down, but it remains a closed case until a documentary film crew decides to investigate.

Heading to the site of the slaughter, the crew interviews local historians to piece together the events leading up to the tragedy. It seems the hotel was showing signs of being haunted all through the setup, but the team's leader was too brazen to quit. The sole survivor of the original haunt's staff drops off one last round of footage, but naturally, by the time the filmmakers get through it, it's once again too late.

Written and directed by Stephen Cognetti, Hell House LLC sits right in the middle of the found footage pile of recent horror films. It has a decent setup and smartly leans into the simple truth that clown mannequins are creepy to lend some atmosphere, but its insistence on being, I guess, truthful to the experience of a scared victim wielding a camera in times of trouble is simply annoying. I'm not one to experience motion sickness while watching a movie, but I found myself deliberately looking away from the screen on more than one occasion because the shakiness was genuinely unpleasant to watch.

Worse, Hell House LLC doesn't redeem itself with anyone worth rooting for. Like virtually every other found footage horror movie made in the last ten years, all of our leads are bland white twentysomethings (I'm fairly certain the only people of color in the whole film are clowns) who behave like an unholy combination of frat boys and hipsters. I couldn't tell anyone apart, and hence felt absolutely nothing when anyone went missing. How could I even know who was who? 

I'd heard good things about Hell House LLC, and I suppose found footage diehards will find what they're looking for. If, of course, they can actually see anything...

High Points
While it would have been nicer to actually SEE them, I will say that Cognetti has some good instincts when it comes to staging scares...

Low Points
You know, if only we could SEE them

Lessons Learned
Never remain friends with a group of young white people who decide to film themselves, not because you'll almost inevitably die in a blur, your last words being, "What the f*ck," but more because if two decades of found footage horror has taught me anything, it's that young white people who enjoy filming themselves are almost certainly an awful combination of bland and rude

I pretty much hated the experience of watching Hell House LLC, but I recognize that it's a decent entry into the low standards set by found footage. It has some good setup and a few nice jump scares, and it seems as though many in the horror community have embraced it. Both this film and its sequel are streaming on Shudder.

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