Directed By: Stephen Cognetti
Last year’s Hell House LLC was a little gem I came across on Amazon Prime and, like most movies on there, I assumed would be garbage. Instead it was an effective single-location movie that worked on me both times I watched it. I’m only human of course so when I saw there was a sequel I was on board, despite my reservations about horror sequels in general and of course just in time for the season this popped up on Shudder.
And…well my thoughts are mixed.
We jump a number of years past the original movie and into a scene of a grieving mother who tells the story of her son and the moments he spent broadcasting from the house before he vanished. It was here that we get the first left turn of the movie because I thought it was going to be about this kid and his friends but instead it’s just to illustrate that in the years since the original ‘documentary’ came out, a number of others have decided to visit the much-vaunted Abbadon hotel only to witness something sinister or vanish completely.
Already we’re dealing with a greater scope and ambition (Not to mention budget) than what we had the first time around, but if nothing else it at least clued you in to the fact that this wasn’t going to be just a retread of the original. Soon enough we settle in to another trip into the hotel itself where a Vice-like journalistic team and a psychic attempt to get some answers about what the hotel’s history.
I don’t want to say too much more about what happens except to say that ultimately I think it’s a movie that reaches for more than it can deliver and ties itself in knots. I generally don’t like mythology in storytelling. Don’t get me wrong it’s fun (I will always love Lost) but I also think it overexplains things that don’t need explaining. Do we ultimately need to know the secret story of how the crew from the original movie ended up at that house to begin with, or isn’t it better to accept that they were falling on hard times and one last desperate gamble to suceed? One version of that story resonated a lot more in modern times than the other one did, I know that much. This stuff ultimately doesn’t matter, but somewhere in the last few years we told ourselves that every tiny detail has to be accounted for or else the movie fails and so that’s what we get.
It’s not to say I didn’t like it because I did. The scares are still effective (Those of you who liked the clown in the first movie will be glad to see his cameo here), the hotel itself is such a great find with its endless maze of hallways, the performances are mostly good across the board and the presentation of documentary, Facebook streams and local news footage is really well done, but it all starts to feel like background noise to the ‘real’ story, which is a shame because that stuff is really not as interesting as the movie seems to think that it is.
I appreciate not everyone will feel the same way and that’s fine. Some people like the deepening of mythology and backstory and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. However for me it got in the way of what I wanted to see. Here’s hoping that with the next one they can get back to basics, because when this does remember that it’s a horror movie it’s good at what it does.