HELL HOUSE, LLC (2015) is an excellent found-footage horror film, a part of the genre I typically avoid due to its predictability and lurching cameras. While the screenplay focuses on the scares and gives us little reason to invest in the characters, it’s a solid horror film propelled by mystery and suspense and just plain good fun. My editor, Bradley Englert, recommended this one to me, and it turned out to be a great recommendation.
The film begins with news coverage of tragedy at a haunted house attraction in Abaddon, NY. Nobody knows what happened to the people running it. The police sealed off the house and refuse to release details of their investigation. Five years later, a documentary crew tries to find out what happened. They’re approached by Hell House, LLC’s sole survivor, who has tapes.
The result is a story about a Halloween attraction company arriving in Abaddon to set up “Hell House” in an abandoned hotel for Halloween. They end up living there for the month leading up to the attraction opening to the public. We’re introduced to the owner, his girlfriend, three crew members, and three local actors they hire. While living in the hotel, they transform it into a pretty cool haunted house, learn some of the hotel’s very strange history, and deal with scary occurrences.
The characters are likeable, though we’re not given enough story for them to really invest in these people. There are conflicts, but they’re on the surface, and otherwise each character is given a single trait that defines them: Alex is the driven owner in denial about what’s going on, Sarah is his cute and plucky girlfriend, Paul is a goof, etc.
The main event is the house itself and the mystery surrounding it, what happened the night everything went down, and the suspense leading up to it. While low budget, the monster element is pretty well done. There is some denial and bad decisions that affect willing suspension of disbelief–like scared people running around in the dark with flashlights instead of turning on the lights–but the raw found footage feel and pretty decent acting make up for it and then some.
Overall, HELL HOUSE, LLC is a solid, tense, fun horror flick, and as a found footage film, it’s actually quite great.