It’s been eight years since the opening night tragedy of Hell House, LLC and still many unanswered questions remain. Thanks to an anonymous tip, investigative journalist Jessica Fox is convinced that key evidence is hidden inside the abandoned Abaddon Hotel-evidence that will shed light on the hotel’s mysteries. She assembles a team equally hungry for answers with one goal: break into the hotel and discover the truth.
When Heather, Josh and Mike took that long trek into the woods way back in 1999, the world of horror was changed forever. The Blair Witch Project was not the first ever Found Footage horror, you can look back to the likes of 80’s nasty classic Cannibal Holocaust as setting the example, while the underrated and much excellent The Last Broadcast actually came out a year before Blair, but much like Halloween was not the first example of a slasher, but started the slasher boom, the lost tapes of Heather created a wave of horror that still carries onto this day.
By the time I watched Hell House LLC in 2016, I had virtually given up on the whole of idea of stupid people running around dark corridors, doing stupid things when really they should be putting down the camera and doing something many people would do, like for example – stop filming.
But something strange happened. The film actually freaked me out. I went in unprepared at what director Stephen Cognetti was offering. Even in broad daylight, I gripped the side of my chair when that “Clown” and that basement reared its ugly head. As you get older, films don’t scare you anymore. Hereditary was good but for an experienced horror veteran, its more about the storytelling and while I was excited like you won’t believe for Halloween, I honestly knew I wasn’t going to be terrified once Mikey had met up with Laurie who was once his sister and dead, but now not dead and also not his sister anymore…..(my head hurts!!)
But Hell House LLC, got me with some fantastic set-pieces that afterwards had me writing up a lavish review while telling everyone I know that they to had to watch one of the best Found Footage horrors ever made. Thankfully I was not the only one who noticed and picked up on this and the film became such a massive cult hit that the inevitable sequel was announced, news which made you excited but also worried that the follow up will massively disappoint.
After a prolonged wait thanks to the ridiculous problems on Amazon Prime (that caused many UK fans unable to access this film), I finally sat down to watch my third eagerly awaited film of 2018 (ironically all sequels) in hope that Cognetti can do the impossible and deliver once more.
The wonderful thing about this sequel is that it takes the only good thing out of that awful Blair Witch 2 and expands it into a full feature film and I am not talking about a stuffed owl smashing through a window. I always thought the beginning of Book Of Shadows had a great concept where people had seen The Blair Witch and were going into the very woods themselves. We had a small scene of a Sheriff calling them back until eventually the sequel morphed into something totally different and into a bit of mess.
Here, Hell House 2 takes that one idea and runs with it, something I must add Grave Encounters 2 also done with great effect. Set eight years after the tragedy of the original, the sequel as two narratives to drive the story along. One we are seeing a bunch of talking heads on a local TV Show called “Morning Mysteries” led by presenter Suzy McCombs (Amanda K Morales) who is interviewing Town Official Arnold Tasselman ( Brian David Tracy), original survivor Mitchell (Vasile Flutur) and the usual TV psychic Brock Davies (Kyle Engleman). The other part of the film cuts with footage from new people going into the house, which happened after the TV Broadcast of this programme. Like the text at the beginning states “the following footage was compiled by Russell Wynn of the Wynn Media Group.”, so while its seems confusing what I am writing, when watching, you’ll understand the flow of the film.
I’ve got to be honest and say my favourite part of the sequel is the video clips the TV Show plays of other victims and the spooky footage they have of the hotel. I wouldn’t have cared less if Cognetti had just released a film like this, because believe me, he pulls off some fantastic set-pieces that demonstrate once more how much of good career in this genre the director is going to have.
Its not stupid to believe that having watched the first film, people would actually go to the hotel to see if it was true. I mean if this was actually real, then people would want to see and believe for themselves. This sequel twists on this reality and actually pulls off some fantastic moments, like Jackson Mallet, who filmed himself in the hotel. What happens afterwards, freaked me out and also remember the old ghost story of Hitchhikers, well Cognetti takes that Urban Legend and ramps it up a notch. That segment alone is probably the best moment of this sequel and I found myself falling in love all over again with what was happening before my eyes.
Sadly though the footage from within the hotel doesn’t quite match the levels of the original. Now don’t get me wrong, there are still some great moments that I wouldn’t possibly spoil here (just wait for the Psychic scene), but with such a high standard to aim for, Hell House LLC 2, just dips below to what we really wanted.
There is nothing like that “Waking up in the middle of the night scene” from the original that had fans raving about and its a says a lot that as the credits rolled, I remembered mostly all the good parts from the beginning of the film than what was going on towards the climax
Huge credit though to Cognetti for not just settling on the same old and offering up a routine sequel which followed the same beat. Yes there are moments of the film crew running around the hotel that may echo the first, but underneath the mayhem, you can tell that there as been a lot of thought about this plot and where it is heading.
With a planned third film on the horizon, we beginning to see that this is not just a run of the mill haunted hotel and a mini twist towards the end suggests that bigger plans are afoot and its here you’ll have to make your own mind up if what is being offered actually works. For me the jury is out until I see how this finishes when that third film reaches its conclusion,
Hell House LLC 2 works for the majority of its running time. Cognetti has created a franchise that stands out among all other Found Footage horror films and when I called the original the best of its kind for many years, I still honestly believe it and if we compare it to The Blair Witch Project which offered up a poor sequel that its own title didn’t even make much sense, you can only sit back and be happy that this sequel manages to capture some of the magic of its original. They don’t quite pull it off, but when its effective, the film moves itself up to such a level that you won’t see better this year.
If you loved its original, then you’ll no doubt enjoy this much anticipated sequel, it doesn’t disappoint, even though you will feel you needed a bit more, but most importantly, it makes you look forward to the next one and with the clues and lingering questions left in the air after the credits rolled, Hell House LLC 3 is a tantalising prospect!
A sequel that is basically “A calm before the storm”……
3 Hatchets Out Of 5