Hell House LLC sees a documentary film crew attempting to piece together what went wrong at a haunted attraction in upstate New York where a tragic series of events led to the deaths of more than a dozen patrons and employees. The deeper the filmmakers dig, the more questions that have about what really went on.
I really didn’t expect to like Hell House LLC as much as I did. I can probably count all of the found footage film’s I’ve really enjoyed on two hands. However, this mockumentary offering from writer/director Stephen Cognetti was a pleasant surprise. It’s part The Houses October Built and part Lake Mungo. And the end result is quite enjoyable.
One thing that set this picture apart for me is that it offers legitimate reasoning for its narrative approach: The documentary portions are self explanatory and the found footage elements are being captured for use on the proprietor’s website, as well as to help plan the following year’s haunt. There are no proclamations about how everything must be documented and the cameras must keep rolling. Everything comes across as organic and reasonably believable.
The effects work is really quite impressive when considering that the filmmakers didn’t have a big budget to work with. The added scenes and restored footage in this director’s cut version really served to enhance the finished product. If you saw the film during its VOD bow, it’s still worth giving the newly released director’s cut a look.
Cognetti really has crafted a suspenseful and intense story on a scrappy budget. There are plenty of well-placed scares and there’s no shortage of ambiance throughout the film’s runtime.
The performances from the leads are mostly solid, with a few exceptions. The scenes where Paul is talking directly into the camera while filming himself are a little overly dramatic and come across as somewhat inauthentic and shoehorned in for the sake of inserting expository dialogue. However, that’s a minor complaint and didn’t detract substantially from my enjoyment as a whole.
Another fairly minor complaint is that the footage from inside the haunt when all hell breaks loose is so choppy that I couldn’t tell what the hell was happening. I understand that it may have looked unrealistic if the footage was crisp and perfectly rendered, but there has to be a happy medium somewhere in-between. And on a similar note, there are several sequences that are so dark they can barely be made out. But, given what the filmmakers had to work with, I can forgive some of these shortcomings.
My final quip wis that there is so much unnecessary language. I’m all for swearing in a film. And it takes a lot more than cursing to offend me. But I think any dialogue it should serve to enhance the picture and not detract from it. There are countless instances of characters swearing for no identifiable reason. And at some point, it starts to come across as uncalled for. But, like my other complaints with Hell House LLC, this is not terribly egregious.
If you’re interested in getting your hands on a copy of the DVD only release of the film’s director’s cut, you can pick one up right here. Product is available starting today. Writer/director Stephen Cognetti also reportedly has a sequel in the works.
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Stephen Cognetti
Writer(s): Stephen Cognetti
Stars: Gore Abrams, Ryan Jennifer Jones, Alice Bahlke, and Danny Bellini
Release: October 3, 2017 (Director’s Cut DVD)
Sub-Genre: Found Footage