quarantine stream hell house llc

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Hell House LLC

Where You Can Stream It: Shudder, Amazon Prime Video

The Pitch: A group of friends open a haunted attraction in an abandoned hotel that turns out to really be haunted. While documenting their attempts to open the haunt on video, they capture all the scary stuff that happens to them.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: It’s almost September, which means summer is over. And what a weird, weird summer it was. But with the end of summer comes something exciting: Halloween season. Sure, Halloween isn’t until October, but Halloween season starts in September. Which means it’s time to kick off the season with scary, Halloween-themed films, and that’s where Hell House LLC comes in.

Ever since The Blair Witch Project made a bajillion dollars, found-footage horror movies have been abundant. The craze has never really died out – it’s just evolved (see the recent computer-screen-style films Unfriended or Host, for example). But with any craze comes varying degrees of success. For every Blair Witch Project, you have a The Devil Inside. In fact, it often seems that there are more bad found-footage movies than good. But really, you just have to pick through some junk to find the treasure.

Hell House LLC is a good example of treasure. It’s a very simple film – just watching this, you can tell the budget was probably close to non-existent. But writer-director Stephen Cognetti is able to make the most of what he has on hand. The story follows a group of friends (Danny Bellini, Ryan Jennifer, Gore Abrams, and Jared Hacker) who are trying to open a Halloween haunted house in upstate New York. They’re using the abandoned Abaddon Hotel, which has a mysterious history surrounding it.

As you might guess, the hotel turns out to be really haunted, and as the days tick by and our crew keeps trying to get the haunt together, more and more creepy stuff happens, most of it involving a genuinely unnerving human-sized clown doll that appears to have a mind of its own. What makes Hell House LLC work is so well is the atmosphere – Cognetti is able to build up an ominous mood which goes a long way toward making most of the quiet, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them scares all the more effective.

You might be able to predict where the film is going, and that’s fine (in fact, the movie opens by more or less telling us everyone inside the building is doomed). But that set-up ends up increasing the scares, because it puts us on edge from the start. We’re waiting for something terrible to happen, and we know that it could happen at any moment.

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