Given the recent launch of the 3rd movie in the franchise, I decided it was time that I finally got around to watching 2015’s Hell House LLC. Hell House is a found footage horror movie that follows the exploits of a group setting up a haunted house in what turns out to possibly be an actual haunted house. Since it’s release Shudder has been home to two sequels.
Admittedly I did not know much about this movie going in. I knew it was a found footage supernatural horror but did not know it was set in a haunted house attraction or much else about it. I have to be upfront and admit that this particular subgenre is not my favorite. I do enjoy many movies in the same vein; however, I tend to enjoy them less than others. I went in with an open mind, but my own personal tastes will always have an impact on my experience.
The movie opens by introducing the audience to a tragedy that took place in a haunted house attraction several years prior. There is a documentary group looking into what happened as the whole incident has been very hush-hush. During their research, they meet Sara, the sole survivor from the group behind the haunted house. She gives them the footage that their group took and answers questions.
The format from here is pretty standard. We follow around a bunch of people as they get up to random shenanigans and begin to set up their attraction in an old abandoned hotel. This is where we get into my first difficulty with found footage movies, the filmmakers are limited in how they can introduce characters based on the restrictions of how they are telling the story, and the results can be mixed. In this case, a lot of what unfolded felt unnatural and is certainly not helped by the characters not being very likable.
Once the group gets going on setting up the house, strange things start to happen. This is where we expect a haunted house movie to go, and where it has a chance to shine.
Hell House is notably different from other movies in the subgenre because it kicks off not only quickly but in big ways. There is little time devoted to slowly getting creepier, with only a few smaller things, and instead, the movie starts coming in with big punches. It is an interesting way to go, and it both works and doesn’t. It doesn’t because it is so much so fast that it is hard to believe that the group stays. These are not “oh well, something else could have moved that chair” situations.
However, it works because it sets a tone and the creep level high. Hell House does not hold back, it comes in hot with unsettling happenings, and keeps you at a high level of tension throughout. It goes a long way in making up for what I felt were other shortfalls in the movie.
Yeah, the characters weren’t likable, and the story was a bit predictable, but damn was the movie creepy. Which is exactly what you want in a horror film, so hell yeah (no pun intended).
The movie, like other found footage films, is clever in how it does its scares. It makes good use of the haunted house attraction itself with confusing lighting and claustrophobic settings. There is a good balance between suspense and jump scares (although leaning a bit towards jump scares), and it does a great job with the balance of horror it shows vs. horror it doesn’t. This easily could have gone into gore porn territory, but instead relies heavily on implied horror and lets your imagination take over.
The story and the larger mystery of the location for the attraction is, as I stated above, a bit predictable at times but not bad in the least. There had been previous problems with the location, and a lot of references to hell and demons. A lot of details are left out, but it feels intentional and a way to keep the audience guessing.
There was also a great choice in not showing everything. We get snippets of the fallout from the haunted house, but we aren’t given a walkthrough of every single thing. The remaining questions and filled in horrors of the audience’s imagination serve the movie well.
So bottom line? It was a well-done movie, and I am glad I watched it… However, it’s still not really my cup of tea. It was creepy, scary, and kept me entertained. It did not, however, convert me to loving that supernatural found footage movies. Still, while it might not equal some of the greats, it is one of the better of its kind, and I would actually highly recommend it to horror fans. I am also rather curious about the two followups which have received mostly positive, but slightly more mixed, responses.