What a frustrating movie.
Let me first say that I am a big fan of the original film. Hell House LLC has some mighty fine scares, mostly of the creepy, goose-pimply style. Scene after scene of those weird clown dolls whose faces move as they relocate seemingly at will to different points in the house…brrrr. I feel like the filmmakers made perfect use of the Found Footage subgenre that so many find boring or simply unbelievable. Yeah, there were some times you had to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride, but you can say that about most Horror films—hell, most films—in general. The sequel was pretty good but felt like it was mostly treading water. Still, I liked it. Now we come to the third film, a Shudder exclusive, and what do we have?
It’s been something like nine years since the events in the last film and entrepreneur Russell Wynn is set to open the dreaded Hotel Abaddon yet again to host his experimental TV show Insomnia. There is a cast a crew dedicated to the art and money of their benefactor and they’re excited for the show to make its debut. Wynn invites an investigative TV news show (the same one from Part II) to come film everything leading up to opening night. The TV people are apprehensive, given the sordid past of the Abaddon, and are reluctant and scared. They are assured that no haunting activity has been occurring and everything is normal. But Wynn is acting weird and once the documentary cameras arrive, odd things start happening. What is the secret Wynn is hiding and what will be the fate of the actors and the documenters?
No spoilers here, but this movie seems to wrap up the entire storyline started with the first film. If so, if this is the last in the series, it’s a good move. The second film had diminishing returns and so does this one. It’s not a bad movie and it still carries with it some mighty good scares and cringe-inducing moments. Those clowns, man. But they feel like echoes, ghosts of past frights, coming to haunt us one last time. Speaking of ghosts, characters from the last two films “come back,” in a way, to have some cameos, which was pretty cool. It helped to connect all three movies to one another.
The film cruises along, kind of repeating what it did best in the earlier installments, and these scenes are still effective. Like I’ve said, the use of background changes and the shifting of props and implements between point of view camera takes is an excellent scare technique. This one, just like the others, builds momentum as it cruises along, pushing the tension to almost unbearable levels. And then…
Well, I have to say it was disappointing and almost laughable. I won’t go into detail, but it definitely knocked a bucket of blood off my review rating. It just got silly and didn’t work. A movie that had been professionally handled and looked amazing, suddenly took an amateur turn. I’m not sure if it was the editing or simply the story itself. I get what they were driving at and yes, it worked, but the execution…I should have been terrified or cheering but instead I was kind of snickering. This is not the reaction, I think, you would want when you’re revealing your apocalyptic climax. It’s too bad because it’s a solid little film up until this point.
The coda is actually effective, being both creepy and sad, and almost saved the movie from the mess of the previous ten minutes or so. Almost. It’s a nice bookend to finish things up, however, and I loved the way the third film circled back into the first one.
In short, Hell House LLC III is pretty good and worth a watch. Yeah, it relies a bit on past glories too much and yeah, it doesn’t really do anything better than you’ve already seen in the previous films, but it’s still a fun time. Just go into it with tempered expectations and enjoy the ride, because it’s a good one and a fitting close to a surprisingly good little trilogy of films.
Two Buckets out of Four
Available exclusively on Shudder
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews, he likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: www.kellymhudson.com