by Steven Wandling
The Hell House LLC films have been somewhat of a surprise success, both in popularity and in what director-writer Stephen Cognetti manages to accomplish with the haunted house found footage concept. This has become quite the popular horror subgenre to mixed results. The past few years alone have seen the release of Hell Fest, Haunt, Extremity, and two House that October Built films that all more or less share the same premise: a group of adrenaline seeking friends on or around Halloween night stumble upon the wrong extreme haunted attraction of some kind and fall prey to all sorts of madness and mayhem from psycho killers, ghosts, demented clowns and the powers of Hell itself. Hell House LLC has managed to stand out from the pack by consistently amping up the scares in a creative fashion with each installment while delivering the same satisfying experience that fans of the genre, like myself, have come to crave.
As with other films in the genre, mileage will vary with Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire. But if you were a fan of the first two films and their blend of spookshow scares and interpersonal character drama, then this trilogy capper will no doubt fit nicely in your wheelhouse. I think it’s also important to mention that Cognetti works as if he is fully aware that this film needs to be able to stand on its own despite being a sequel to two films, while at the same time adding to the world that he’s already meticulously built without fucking it up. It’s not an easy task and cinema is littered with much bigger names and franchises that have completely screwed the landing. Creepylovely is proud to report that, Hell House LLC III in no way screws the landing, but is arguably the one Hell House LLC film any casual fan should see.
Fans of the trilogy will already be on board. Tonally, nothing has changed. It’s still a found footage film masquerading as compiled documentary footage to try to make sense of the supernatural events that occurred at upstate New York haunted attraction the Abaddon Hotel. Without spoiling too much of the trilogy’s lore, let’s just say that one has to admit that there is indeed a long sordid history of nothing but, at best, mysterious deaths and disappearances to justify bulldozing this hotel to the ground and then sealing off the property with razor wire to the general public. That’s exactly what was going to happen in the film save for Russell Wynn (Gabriel Cetry), who swooped in and saved it at the last minute.
Seem like an odd thing to do? To the normal individual definitely, but Wynn is a young, extremely wealthy entrepreneur that is more than a tad bit eccentric. He runs an immersive live theater experience called Insomnia that is all the rage back in Manhattan. When he discovered what was happening to the Abaddon, he decided it was the best place to renovate and turn into a living production of Faust that he has concocted as theater meets haunted house walk-through. New Morning Mysteries host, Vanessa Shepherd (Elizabeth Vermilyea), a local upstate news program, has been given full access by Wynn to film the actors and crew for the weeks leading up to October 1st when Insomnia, and the Abaddon Hotel, re-opens. What could possibly go wrong?
If you’re no stranger to these films or the horror genre in general you can probably already guess the answer to that is a helluva lot. All of the classic trademarks of the found footage/haunted house horror film are in place and done well in Hell House LLC III. The Abaddon Hotel itself is one of those sets that is so rich and spooky on its own that it is perhaps the starring character of this trilogy. It plays with the idea that once evil has been unleashed, there’s no real way for any humans to do anything about it. It goes more into Christian lore with that sentiment in the film but it reminds me of the same notion of ghosts as traumatic emotional residue in a lot of Asian horror cinema that can be traced back to Eastern mythology and folkore.
On top of the typical effective scares that come along with this type of spookfest when done right, Hell House LLC III manages to do more with its own mythology without making the affair too convoluted and forgetting why we’ve shown up excitedly to three of these to begin with. The setup is pure gold, the Abaddon Hotel itself just needs to be given room to shine. Cognetti knows exactly how to do that and in his third time at bat he’s only gotten better at it. He also finds a way to bring back old characters from the previous Hell House films, be they alive, dead, or somewhere in between in very organic and interesting ways. The film has a great pace with a never ceasing, ever increasing sense of anxiety that just makes everything worse when the tension is too much and the film explodes in its final act.
Some people will perhaps have a hard time suspending their disbelief for a third outing with Hell House LLC III. It would be hard pressed, truthfully, to see the series doing anything better or more interesting than it has done throughout the initial trilogy. Here’s hoping that it’s at least a minute before another film is announced to let the spirits rest at the Abaddon, lest the series risk becoming too derivative and more of the same. Cognetti and company should totally be applauded with what they’ve pulled off here. The entire Hell House LLC experience is a great exercise in low budget mythology/world building while still keeping the basic conceit of a haunted house spookshow effectively intact in such a way that each film can be enjoyed on its own. Sold!
Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire will be streaming exclusively on Shudder beginning September 19th, 2019. Thanks for reading! If you like what you’ve read, please share to your horror loving friends and follow us on Twitter, Instagam, and Facebook. If you would like to write for us, just shoot us a private message or DM on social media! Stay creepy!