I’ve watched this movie a few times now, and it never gets old. It’s always just as heart-pounding as the first time I saw it.
Hold on. Much like the movie, I’m starting at the end. Let’s back up.
Hell House LLC is an incredibly believable mockumentary/found footage flick directed by Stephen Cognetti. It follows the crew of the haunted house company dubbed Hell House LLC as it prepares for its opening night in a new location. The bulk of the movie attempts to explain why, on opening night, there was a “malfunction” that killed 15 people, including most of the crew.
That’s it. As Gordon Ramsey might put it, “It’s simple, but fresh and done bloody well.”
Let’s look at the simplicity of the film for a moment. Some might argue that it’s too simplistic, but I think that’s the genius of it. The filmmakers take the thrills back to basics with lighting, editing, and point of view. For example, in one scene, the character of Paul is filming the testing of the lighting in one room of the house. There are several freakish dummies in the room, but as the lights go out and come back on, one dummy appears to have moved. Paul can’t be sure until they test the strobe lighting. This is a super simple scene that creates suspense with lighting. Anyone can do it, but it’s effective. This is a great example of how the entire movie is set up. With this flick, its simplicity is not a negative aspect, but a positive one.
I wasn’t going to discuss anything other than the above in this review, but I got to looking online at what others thought of this flick. So, this leads me to want to talk about the characters real quick. I have heard that a lot of viewers didn’t think the characters were fully realized. The characters in this movie aren’t supposed to be full, multi-dimensional characters, and here’s why:
The characters are facilitators. They have no purpose except to move the story along. The house is the real protagonist (and antagonist, actually). It’s the house’s story that you’ve come to watch. This is why none of the characters seem to have any qualities that make them stand out (except for Alex, but the house manipulates him, so one can still argue that it’s the house that’s giving Alex a forceful personality.) In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with the characters; They are doing exactly what they were meant to do.
I’m going to give this film five out of five spooks. I think what I like most about this movie is that it taps into our innate fears. The fear of the dark, of danger lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce. This is an ancient fear ingrained in all of us. The simplicity of the movie’s set up creates a believability that most movies don’t have. The suspense created with lighting, editing, and point of view is effective, and don’t worry about the characters, they’re not meant to stick around anyway.