The Scariest Scene In Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel Wants You To Stay A While

(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 schedules a return to the Abaddon Hotel in "Hell House LLC II" and Ariel's ready to check out and go home.)

We already covered why Stephen Cognetti's "Hell House LLC" deserves all its praise, but I don't think Cognetti's sequel, "Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel," gets nearly enough recognition. Horror franchises, especially indies, often fumble their continuations when building lore that didn't originally exist. Cognetti's ability to provide a reason for our return to the Abaddon Hotel, coupled with another frightful execution of haunted house scares, is no one-trick pony. "Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel" expands upon the landmark's cultist past drenched in sacrificial blood while still clutching onto what makes "Hell House LLC" such a chilling found footage experience. It's some new narrative tricks with the same horrific treats.

I'll admit the documentary angle isn't always the sharpest since performances no longer stick to scare reactions. The fake interview program used as a wraparound isn't nearly as compelling as when characters reenter the Abaddon, which can become a distraction. Although, there's an appreciated freshness to the investigative journalism angle that pulls more souls into the abandoned hotel's belly.

Worse sequels would assemble new fools to retrace the same doomed steps of previous players. "Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel" at least tries to acknowledge the reasoning behind another march into New York's famed Hell House.

The setup

The story takes place eight years after the infamous Hell House murders that shook Rockland County. Hard-hitting online journalist Jessica Fox (Jillian Geurts) receives an anonymous tip about key evidence still hiding in the Abaddon Hotel. She convinces documentarian and Abaddon expert Mitchell Cavanaugh (Vasile Flutur) to accompany her crew on an expedition inside the crime scene, now guarded by police patrols. Mitchell reluctantly agrees, still shaken by his interactions with Diane Graves (Alice Bahlke). Nothing much makes sense, as curiosity brings the two truth-seekers together.

Also interested is celebrity paranormal conversationalist Brock Davies (Kyle Ingleman), who demands to join the adventure. Brock sees this as an opportunity to seek acclaim by connecting with spirits in the hotel. If Brock can prove the legend of Andrew Tully and his cult hobbies were real, he'll be an even bigger star.

Everyone's motivations are apparent since the characters introduce themselves as panelists on an episode of some debate show specifically about the Hell House murders.

The story so far

On air, Mitchell and Brock verbally spar with bureaucrat Arnold Tasselman (Brian David Tracy), a supernatural denier who preaches about entering the Hell House site. Brief clips of live streamers and cellphone footage show the unexplainable anomalies reported from the Abaddon since the deadly incident. Jess phones into the program and plants the seed in Mitchell's mind that sparks their connection, which leads to their in-and-out trespassing plan. They travel together and park in the cornfield behind the Abaddon's back entrance to avoid legal issues, with cameraman David (Dusty Austen) and scared-as-hell Molly (Joy Shatz). Then, as they approach the backdoor, Brock appears with his own cameraman.

With no locks or security, Mitchell opens the door with ease, signaling the first of many odd occurrences. Brock and Mitchell's motivations are polar opposites, so Mitchell leads Jess and David to the basement while Brock rushes towards the dining room with his planchet at the ready. Brock enters the still decorated eating area to find fake corpses sitting at tables, except for one open spot in the room's center. He writes "Y" and "N" in chalk atop the wooden table and calls to the spirit of Andrew Tully, quickly learning there are far more undead guests checked into the Abaddon.

The scene

Brock begins his inquisition of the spirits that roam the Abaddon, his hands off the planchette. From the ceiling hang two nooses that Brock plays off as a joke, but as his camera guy notes, they weren't there upon entering the room. He isn't scared, though. He starts by asking simple "Yes" or "No" questions, trying to identify whoever is beginning to move the planchette.

"Are you Andrew Tully?" No.

"Are you one of the Hell House LLC team?" No.

"Are you the ghost of someone who died the night everything went wrong?" No.

"Did you have something to do with the disappearances here?" The planchet slides to "Yes."

As this is happening, Brock's camera operator pans from the braggadocious host to the dummies sitting at tables still leftover from the haunt. Everything appears the same, except that one of the closer props has now turned her head and looks towards the camera.

The characters don't notice, but we do.

"Do you intend to do any harm to anyone here in the hotel?" The planchet doesn't move, still on "Yes."

Brock glares a look of fear and concern into the camera. He begins to mutter something, but directs his attention towards one of the dummies that's now standing, bloodied, its ghoulish expression sprung to life.

The camera snaps over to the danger. We hear the operator gasp in horror, then scamper backward towards the door in haste, his camera pointing at the entity to prevent funny business. Brock obscures the frame so we can't quite see, but the figure is not moving. Brock pleads for mercy, promising to leave.

The cameraman finally gets out of the dining room and whips frontways towards what should be the exit, but WHAM — the ghost is blocking their path, up close and personal, glaring right at us in a terrifying glimpse before the feed cuts to black.

The impact (Ariel's take)

Let me first start by saying how much I value the subjectivity of film. The ability for each and every audience member to come away from a movie having had their own unique experience is truly incredible. For instance, I love that Matt is such a champion of this movie. Truly, I do. Unfortunately, I just don't share his zeal or his terror.

I admittedly spent the majority of this movie editing the script in my head, so much so that it was difficult to surrender to it. The acting felt so forced and the writing so rough that I just couldn't lose myself in the few effective scares that were there in the first place.

Admittedly, this specific scene did make me jump, but it didn't really scare me. I have since rewatched it a handful of times without so much as a flinch or a second thought. 

The first "Hell House LLC" had some really clever scares. I wasn't in love with it, but it did have some subtle shockers that reminded me of the more effective moments in the first "Paranormal Activity." But, for me, its sequel was sorely lacking from top to bottom. And that affected a lot of my experience with even this scene, which is probably the best scare in the whole movie.

So, in that regard, I guess it does its job. It succeeds at being the scariest scene in "Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel," and Matt has chosen wisely as a result. It just doesn't speak to me the same way, and that's ok. I genuinely wish it did.