The Scariest Scene In Hell House LLC Actually Makes Clowns Worse, Somehow

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Matt Donato and Ariel Fisher. In this edition: Matt revisits the Abaddon Hotel in "Hell House LLC," and Ariel remembers why she hates haunted houses. Sort of.)

Whenever I crave a dependable scare, certain found footage favorites come to mind. The style has defined a subgenre often maligned by the general public, who equate the phrase to shaky cameras and motion sickness. The worst examples are to blame, but any subgenre will have its unwatchables. For every backyard production where an amateur filmmaker sprints a spooky 5k without a camera stabilizer, there's a title like "Hell House LLC." Intimate, terrifying, and too up-close for comfort.

Stephen Cognetti's Halloween chiller marries found footage with haunted attractions, channeling a popular and rational fear. We've all walked through frightening mazes from local cornfields to Halloween Horror Nights. Our adrenaline carries us past masked actors and fake death scenes, but what if everything was real? It's the perfect location for a spectral takeover or a psychopath's coverup. Who would question monsters and ghouls when that's what ticket holders paid to find? It's a clever concept that's been explored in countless releases like "The Houses October Built," "Haunt," "Hell Fest" — but I hold "Hell House LLC" above most.

The Setup

"Hell House LLC" is a mockumentary about a (fake) haunted attraction in Rockland County, New York, that opened to tragedy on October 8, 2009. Documentary producer Diane Graves (Alice Bahlke) intends to uncover what happened the night fifteen people died when Hell House LLC opened their doors that Halloween season. She introduces the disaster with footage from tour-goers who were scrambling for the exits, intercut with talking-head interviews that speculate what could have slaughtered all those people. No survivors means no first-hand accounts — until now.

Sara Havel (Ryan Jennifer) emerges as the only escapee of the Abaddon Hotel incident, a staff member who worked with Hell House LLC CEO Alex Taylor (Danny Bellini). She agrees to speak on-camera with Diana and provides never-before-seen evidence that recounts what Alex's crew encountered in Rockland County. Here are the answers to so many conspiracy theories, the questions that were chased through the abandoned Abaddon Hotel in the aftermath, uncensored and unaltered. Sara is Diane's golden goose, and she's about to get the entire story.

The Story So Far

After some introductory table setting, the proverbial feast begins by rolling on Alex and his crew's grand misadventure. Timelines start with the earliest arrivals at Rockland County and first-looks at the Abaddon Hotel before it's transformed into a marketable walkthrough. The structure's dilapidation and history bring an ominous dread, which is perfect for scaring patrons. Hell House LLC gears up to tackle their greatest challenge yet, but it's more than they bargained for when their lives become an actual haunted horror show.

Cameras capture all amounts of weirdness throughout their transformation of the old hotel. Pianos strike notes without warning, and decorations begin to act independently. Specifically, three clown mannequins in the basement's sacrifice scene start to taunt Alex's staff. One particularly unsettling clown, red blood dripping from the mask's eyeholes, starts appearing around the house with no explanation, frightening the scare purveyors. Alex keeps refocusing his team on setting up for the opening night, citing their epic accomplishments, but bickering intensifies as the odd occurrences escalate to inexplicable figures and worker disappearances.

That brings us to the creepiest alpha clown's terrifying climax when Tony (Jared Hacker) and "Mac" (Adam Schneider) search for a missing Paul who's been weirdly MIA.

The Scene

Tony and Mac wake in the middle of the night to piano keys playing a repetitive tune. Alex stays upstairs with Sara for protection. Tony and Mac sneak downstairs and through secret doors for quick access to the piano room, where a zombie dummy sits at the instrument. They think Paul is playing a tasteless prank, but when they reach the piano, the music stops, and no Paul in sight.

Cue one last piano jolt as the keys clatter out-of-synch when the camera turns away, suggesting something unseen is present.

Tony and Mac continue into the basement, where Paul could have escaped (if it's Paul). They lurk into the pitch-black dungeon that's mostly dirt and a bulky storm door, and still no sign of Paul. Tony uses the camera's light to improve visibility, scoping out corners of the underground room. He passes over the three clowns who have now become familiar, their heads pointed forward and away from Tony.

It's impossible to see even a few feet in front of their faces, and Mac only has a dull flashlight. Tony's breathing has escalated to showcase anxiety. Mac wanders ahead, almost entirely swallowed by shadows, as Tony continues to nervously search for Paul. He turns at one point, revealing the clowns are now at his back. As the camera passes over the carnival freaks, Tony realizes that all their heads are now cocked sideways, fixing their gaze on him instead of forward as they were only a minute ago.

Tony panics and scrambles inside an old industrial fridge Mac is inspecting, rationally freaked the hell out by the props seemingly coming to life. When he shows Mac the clowns, they're inconspicuously all back to their previous poses.

The Impact (Ariel's Take)

Of all the clown scenes in this godforsaken fright fest, this is the one Matt picks. And, honestly, I'm a little disappointed. Yes, this scene was creepy as all hell. Unquestionably. And if I'd been in Tony's position, I would have done the exact same thing, only I'd have been yelling way louder and swearing a f***-load more.

This was, admittedly, my first time seeing "Hell House LLC." One of the many films that have been on my List™, that mythical thing every film fan, cinephile, or movie buff has that never seems to actually shrink, it was finally time to give this one a go. It's surprisingly effective in the first and second acts. Unfortunately, it did kind of lose me in the third. That and I called it the second I saw Sarah. I could also be jaded, though, so that may be a Me thing. Regardless, this is an effectively creepy little flick that only serves to reinforce why I do not like haunted houses. I mean, I don't mind them too much, but I've seen enough horror movies to know nothing good ever happens at a haunted house.

That said, for my money, Matt's pick isn't the scariest clown moment in "Hell House LLC." That honor goes to the moment when Paul thinks he sees Tony dressed as the monochromatic clown of doom standing at the top of the stairs.

Goodnight and sweet screams, folks. Oh! And don't forget to say hi to Hector on your way to bed.