The found footage sub-genre of horror exploded like a pipe-bomb after the release of 2009’s Paranormal Activity. Since then we have seen countless other films use the same formula too mixed success. In the midst of the found footage renaissance, writer/director Stephen Cognetti released Hell House LLC. Hell House received positive reviews and has since developed a devoted fan-base. The film garnered a sequel, The Abaddon Hotel, in 2018 to negative reviews from fans of the original. September 19, 2019 sees the releases of the third film Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire exclusively to Shudder. Could the third film in the series right the wrongs of the sequel?
Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire takes place shortly after the events of The Abaddon Hotel, which takes place 8 years after the original. The hotel that originally hosted the Hell House haunted attraction is on the verge of being torn down. Wealthy entrepreneur Russell Wynn purchases the hotel to host his interactive show, Insomnia. A reporter and her camera op join the cast and crew of Insomnia just days before opening night. When warning flags begin to pop up, the residents of the once abandoned hotel begin to wonder if they will soon suffer the fate of the Hell House crew. Mysteries are unraveled and the true nature of the Abaddon Hotel is revealed.
“Doesn’t it bother you that people died here while putting on a show like you guys are?”
Lake of Fire returns to what worked so well in the original Hell House, impending doom. The original Hell House film opens with the final act, informing the audience of the destruction of the house. What is unraveled is how the hotel is destroyed and what happened to the Hell House crew. Lake of Fire focuses on a similar premise. We follow a group of people as they prep for the grand opening of the latest Abaddon attraction.
Much like the first film, the entire cast feels genuine in their performances. The Abaddon Hotel suffered from having caricatures and stereotypes rather than real people. The film suffered for that. Here, the crew feels like real people. You can relate to these people because we have all gone through their struggles in some way. Whether that be preparing for a big event at your job, or trying to fit into a new role that you have acquired. This sense of realism of the characters makes the scares hit that much harder.
Now lets talk about the scares. The entire reason we watch a horror film is for the scares. On a personal note, most horror films no longer scare me like they did when I was when I was a teenager. The original Hell House LLC had me genuinely terrified for the entire 90 minute runtime. I felt uneasy and was constantly checking for hidden figures in every corner of my house. Lake of Fire had that same effect. Although I wasn’t scared the entire runtime, the film has some very effective scares.
“Everybody’s seen something.”
Lake of Fire is not without a few hiccups. The third film in the series finds itself constantly relying on footage from the first two films to remind audiences when something is important. Films are most effective when they use the show don’t tell. But in this case by showing the same footage from the original to say “Hey, look! This is important!” This negates the tension that is being built, and feels like it is talking down to the audience. This stylistic choice might work for some, but for me it started to take me out of the film with it’s over-reliance of onscreen callbacks.
The ending of the film (which I will not spoil) is balls too the wall bonkers in terms of the rest of the franchise. I takes the franchise in an entirely new direction that I would be all for in a fourth film. It was something I have never seen implemented in a found footage film. The ending felt like a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stagnant found footage genre.
All in all, Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire is an effective sequel to the cult hit Hell House LLC. It takes the series back to what worked in the original, while also connected all three films into a satisfying conclusion. If you are looking for a way to properly kickoff the Halloween season, the Hell House LLC series is a great start. Grab a big bowl of popcorn, cuddle up in your warmest blanket and enjoy a night in Hell House.
Overall Score 3.75/5
Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire premieres Thursday September 19th on Shudder.