It has been a long time since a movie made me angry, but Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire? This movie thoroughly pissed me off.
The latest film in the series is again written and directed by Stephen Cognetti and produced by Joe Bandelli, who have worked on every one of these films. The story picks up nine years after the events of the first film and a year after the second, and a new company has decided to use the Abaddon hotel to again put on a live show, called Insomnia this time instead of Hell House, presenting the story of Faust with the hotel as the backdrop and the audience all wearing masks (for no reason ever explained) and moving through the hotel as the story goes on.
Led by the apparently charismatic (he doesn’t exhibit much in the way of charisma or effective leadership at any point in the film) and filthy rich Russell Wynn (Gabriel Chytrr), it quickly becomes apparent that the hotel is up to its old tricks again, as strange goings on plague the production and the question becomes who, if anyone, will make it out alive. This story comes across as being a re-tread of the first Hell House LLC, hitting many of the same story beats and using almost identical shots which sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. There’s a fine line between homage and laziness and this film wanders back and forth across that line again and again.
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It becomes quickly apparent on watching this that the production values are higher than the other two films, but that is not necessarily a good thing. While it seems slicker, it lacks that found footage griminess of the first two films and that is a little jarring. It’s just too clean for a Hell House film, though that’s an entirely subjective observation.
The problems begin around two minutes in, as the audience is subjected to flashback after flashback after flashback to the first two films, each one accompanied by a dissolve effect and an irritating “Buzz” effect like a walkie-talkie being turned on and off. On its own, if used sparingly, this might not be a bad thing; however this film uses this exact same effect around twenty-seven times in the space of three minutes, sometimes with only a second or two pause to show a clip from the previous films. It is intensely annoying and a very, very clunky way to try and shoehorn in references to prior events. Even more annoyingly, while they continue to use the same dissolve effect later in the film, the sound effect that accompanies it randomly changes for apparently no reason whatsoever.
The problem with the film being simply too “clean” comes back again in the final scenes, where the black robed figures are moving through the house. Whereas the first two films had them as vague shapes, with hardly any details visible, in this film you can see them clearly, and you can see what they’re doing, and they stop being preternatural threats, ghosts or demons, and simply become boring men with knives. All mystery is destroyed when you can clearly see what they’re doing and in fact the movie revels in it, the camera making sure to linger as blood splatters across the walls like someone just squeezed a juice box.
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There is no subtlety here and precious little actual horror. There are perhaps a couple of moments that will make your hair stand on end or a chill run down your spine but that’s all. There’s no real feeling of rising dread or threat, as the cast quickly dismisses everything that happens and goes back to business as usual with no apparent ill-effects of any sort.
This feels like a film going through the motions and its last minute Signs-esque deus-ex-machina is just insultingly bad. Not only does it not work here (and also includes some seriously shonky and low budget CGI), it cheapens the events from the first film. Given that all three films have been written and directed by the same man, one can only assume that this, then, was the grand plan. If this was where he intended the story to go, then that’s a real shame as where it’s ended up simply isn’t worth the time or the effort.
The weakest film of the trilogy, a pale imitation of the first film that barely acknowledges the events of the second. Don’t waste your time. There’s nothing to see here.
Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire is available exclusively on Shudder from 19th September.