Your weekly streaming pick is here! Once again coming from Amazon Prime. Sorry, Netflix, I just don’t want another trash Adam Sandler movie. Hell House is a small movie in the found footage horror genre. A genre that is generally tired but still has some life in it.
Hell House LLC is the name of the fictional company within the movie. Hell House rents out a different space every year for a popular Halloween experience. In 2009 the group of friends go to the small town of Abbadon NY, north of New York City. Some objections are raised about the distance from the city. The crew are afraid of losing their audience. The abandoned hotel is too good for them to pass up.
To save time commuting the organizers of the event decide to take up residency at the hotel. Living in an evolving haunted house is creepy in its own right. As the attraction gets more and more complete things begin to get weird.
Credit to writer/director Stephen Cognetti for keeping the scares and tension quality. The horror in Hell House sits at a simmer for the majority of the movie. The movie doesn’t lean too much on cheap jump scares. The actors do a great job at selling the creep factor.
The narrative isn’t told in sequential order. The out of order storytelling allows the movie to plant seeds. The out of order nature of the storytelling also delivers some scares before they would happen. Starting a horror movie out strong is crucial. A horror fan doesn’t care to have a deep relationship with characters for half the movie. Not at the expense of the scares at least.
The documentary style also adds a lot to the narrative. It’s so strong that it feels like an actual investigation into some unexplained events. The ‘event’ in question is also never fully explained in an exposition dump. We get enough as the movie comes to its climax. The restraint shows a lot of strength for a writer/director’s first feature.
One big complaint with the found footage genre is the handi-cam. There are many sides to the argument. The most common one is that it makes the audience member disoriented or dizzy. If you are prone to dizziness in a handycam movie, be prepared. It will happen in this. There’s not much that can be done. Some scenes had the camera holder running in low lighting, or even worse, walking in a strobe light room. The second biggest complaint with found footage is in the execution of it. First it makes sense narratively. The cameraman is a character. The person wielding the camera also changes based on story needs.
Hell House LLC holds back enough in the end that while things escalate it never goes too far. All too often movies, especially recent horror movies, ruin all the good tension by going too far. Hell House doesn’t devolve into a dump of the writer’s ideas or become an action movie.
Hell House LLC is a great entry into not only the horror genre, but also the found footage genre. It works on many levels. The semi-fourth-wall-breaking nature of it sells the movie rather than breaks it.
Hell House LLC is now streaming on Amazon Prime