Home » ‘Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor’ is a Panic-Inducing Addition to a Terrifying Franchise [Review]

‘Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor’ is a Panic-Inducing Addition to a Terrifying Franchise [Review]

Hell House LLC. is back, baby! Found footage horror is a sub-genre that works so well because of the innate realism conveyed by the characters simply filming the events of the movie. Sounds simple, but the audience being completely immersed into the POV of the characters, seeing everything through their eyes, by way of the camera, has a haunting effect. With a more cinematic approach in a non-found footage movie, there might be more visually spectacular action, staging, etc. but in found footage, the grounded nature of the way that the story is being told adds a raw fear element that can sometimes be stripped away by an over-stylized film technique. Think of how much less effective The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity would be without that gritty and natural feel. The pure terror coursing through the veins of those movies would be neutered down to high-concept narratives told in the typical structure.  When done right, found footage can be absolutely horrifying, and the Hell House LLC. franchise is the pinnacle of found footage horror…

Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor is the fourth entry in the Hell House LLC. franchise, all of which being written and directed by Stephen Cognetti. The original Hell House LLC. came out in 2015 and was critically well-received across the horror community. Hell House LLC. was hailed as inventive and original and has gone from under-the-radar hidden gem to household name amongst fans of horror movies, especially fans of found footage.

Hell House LLC. is about five New Yorkers who run a ‘haunt’ business, called Hell House LLC., and move from New York City out to Rockland County (about an hour or two north of NYC) in order to open up their latest ‘haunt’ in a more secluded location, the abandoned Abaddon Hotel. The Abaddon has been closed for years due to cult like activity resulting in a mass suicide on the property. Locals knowing of the hotel’s haunted nature stay away at all costs, but the Hell House team make it their home for a period of time until the disastrous and catastrophic opening night of the ‘haunt’ that led to not only their demise, but also the demise of other innocent tour-goers…

In my opinion, an underrated aspect of the Hell House LLC. franchise is the lore that it has organically built throughout the course of now four movies.  After the beloved original, Cognetti and his filmmaking team followed up with two sequels, Hell House LLC. 2: The Abaddon Hotel and Hell House LLC. 3: Lake of Fire. I thought both sequels worked very well on their own merit, but of course, don’t totally succeed in recreating what worked so well with the original. Even though they didn’t exactly reignite that flame, both movies are loaded with thrills and chills and are great standalone movies, but more importantly, expanded on the interesting story of the original.

Sometimes, being over-stimulated with lore and additional context can take away from the ambiguity of what works so well with the original movie, but in this franchise, that’s not the case. The structure of the movies in this franchise is quite effective. There is a simultaneous point of view where it bounces back and forth between present day interviews, where context is being given to the audience about what is happening in the footage being shown, then of course the point of view from the footage being recorded is also shown. This structure allows for an immersion into the events transpiring, but also providing context to those events, both points of view happening simultaneously adds to the drama and overall creepiness.

I believe that the entire Hell House LLC. franchise stands toe-to-toe with the scariest movies out there. Everything from the creep factor, jump scares, looming dread, and outstanding prop usage (goddamn clowns) make for a tour-de-force horror franchise that is a must-watch for fans of horror, but then also maybe a recommended stay-away for people who don’t do horror. The ultimate compliment to a horror franchise. All that being said, the Hell House LLC. trilogy is phenomenal, and the follow up to the trilogy, Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor is a proper addition to an already impressive franchise.

Also See: Found Footage Films: A Brief and Twisted History

After a four-year hiatus, the Hell House LLC. franchise is back with its fourth entry, Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor. Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor takes place after the events of the original trilogy, which makes the title just a little bit misleading, but all comes around in the end.

Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor is more of the same in terms of general structure, a duo of Internet sleuths who stay in a haunted house with the hopes of capturing paranormal activity live on film, and also trying to crack the case of a decades-old mysterious murder that took place in the house. This Internet sleuth duo consists of Margot, played by Bridget Rose Perrotta, and Rebecca, played by Destiny Leilani Brown. Even though Margot and Rebecca are partners, Margot is the intense Internet detective, while Rebecca has another career, and is just along for the ride. Margot’s brother, Chase, played by James Liddell, who is described as being troubled, joins the duo as well to provide an extra hand in filming. As a matter of fact, both Margot and Chase have traumatic instances that occurred in their childhoods that still affect them to this day. We learn early on that the Carmichael Manor, where a horrific set of murders and mysterious deaths occurred to a family of five, is only a mere mile or so from the Abaddon Hotel, tying them together geographically, until we learn the true connection between the Carmichael Manor and the Abaddon Hotel, and it is horrifying…

The Carmichael Manor location is so much different than the Abaddon Hotel, but it is just as scary, and also includes a couple of relics from the Abaddon Hotel, that being a pair of clowns that are maybe the scariest looking clowns that exist. Since the movie discloses the fact that the trio of sleuths at the Carmichael do not make it out alive right away, the audience relies on the context being provided by way of interviews being done with two people, who are close to Margot and understand the history of the Carmichael, and its ties to the Abaddon, all after the trio is already dead.

The interviewees are not just there to provide context, but to also preface each found footage scene with a tease of what’s to come, which I found to be an effective way to keep the structure and pace of the movie consistent. Along with the interviews, and the found footage of Margot, Rebecca, and Chase, Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor adds another element, found footage from 1989, and the events leading up to, and the time of, the murder of the Carmichael family. This footage is the connective tissue to everything that is happening in the modern footage, but also provides some interesting backstory to the connection to the Abaddon Hotel, and the Tully Cult that cursed the property.

Between the modern footage, and the Carmichael family footage, the manor is covered front to back, with even some scenes taking place outside the property and around the area as well. Important to note that the Carmichael Manor is a lot like the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. The Carmichael Manor sits alone in the woods totally secluded with the closest main road being miles and miles away. One way in, one way out. I thought it was an interesting dichotomy compared to the Abaddon Hotel, which has an inescapable interior, while the Carmichael Manor is a property that is inescapable, even from the outside.

The goddamn clowns. For anyone unfamiliar with the original trilogy, these prop clowns are pure nightmare fuel. They don’t move on camera, but are able to shift around off camera, seemingly, well actually, moving around on their own. Along with the ghostly appearances throughout the Carmichael Manor, the clowns are the stars of the show, providing scare after scare just by simply standing there and staring directly at the camera, which is the audience, directly in the eyes. So unsettling, as they don’t have eyes, but black holes with dry blood surrounding those black holes. What started as a pair of props in the original Hell House LLC. evolves into key pieces to the overarching story of the franchise, and deservingly so, I hate these clowns, which is a compliment to their efficacy.

Did You Know? Wicked Horror TV Has Classic and Independent Horror Films Available to Stream for Free!

As for the acting in Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor, it’s nothing to write home about. The Internet sleuths were just okay, but that seems to be the theme of each movie, where the performances aren’t exactly tour-de-force displays of acting ability but are more so just serviceable conduits to the storytelling. Let’s just say the ‘Margot’ character wasn’t exactly on par with Meryl Streep’s ‘Linda’ character from The Deer Hunter in terms of exuding a presence onscreen, and we’ll leave it at that. But the same can be said for many horror movie performances. I think the most effective performances come from the kids who play the young Carmichaels. Each of them has such an eerie aura in the old footage that is really unsettling, and works so well for this movie…

Sorry ladies! Just calling it like I see it…

On the technical side, it’s really just so impressive what Stephen Cognetti has been able to do with this whole franchise, but Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor specifically is the best display of technical proficiency in the franchise. The scares are innovative and fresh, the tension is built so perfectly throughout, and there is such a fantastic combination of slow burn dread being built up patiently, to go with jump scares that had me off the couch multiple times.

Some of the visuals in Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor are so one-of-a-kind and are bound to be inspirations for future work in the genre. There is one sequence where Rebecca is on a Zoom call with her boss, going over a project, that just devolves into one of the most creative and unsettling scenes in any movie I’ve seen in quite a while.

Also See: Ten Found Footage Films that Redefined the Genre

My only critique of the film is that there were far too many times where the little red ball-pit type balls were used. After a few times it becomes less effective as a scare tactic, and I would have preferred a few more ghosts than strategically placed red balls. The Abaddon lore being included isn’t overdone, and works as the perfect balance of being a new story to go with tying in the previous story from the trilogy that preceded Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor. I can’t wait to watch this movie again multiple times just to enjoy each brilliantly staged scary scene. I really can’t say enough about how effectively scary Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor is…

Overall, I think Hell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor is a massive success for the filmmaking team, as well as Shudder. I would hope that Hell House LLC. becomes a mainstay franchise for Shudder, just like the V/H/S franchise, but it all must hinge on how deep down the rabbit hole Stephen Cognetti wants to go by continuing to expand on this universe. Based on how well this pseudo-origin story / sequel works thematically, I’d imagine there is more meat on the bone to chew (make sure to catch the post-credits scene cliffhanger!), and I hope to god we can keep this thing rolling. Except I know one thing for damn sure, I’ll be steering clear of Rockland County, New York for quite some time…

Wicked Horror Rating: 8.5/10

From Terror Films & ShudderHell House LLC. Origins: The Carmichael Manor is available to stream on Shudder!

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