Hell House LLC (2015) | Film Review | Content, Recommendations, Discussion & Spoilers
Hell House LLC is a 2015 found-footage horror film directed by Stephen Cognetti and stars Ryan Jennifer, Danny Bellini, Gore Abrams, Alice Bahike, Jared Hacker, and Adam Schneider. This film is currently playing on Amazon Prime.
The film follows a group of people who are renovating a hotel they are turning into a haunted attraction for the Halloween season.
In the beginning of the film, we learn that it has been several years since the opening night of the haunted attraction. It turns out that on the opening night of the attraction, a tragedy occurred and several people died under mysterious circumstances. As there is no clear evidence to explain what happened that night, the people in the town are still questioning the events surrounding the tragedy..
We are shown a film provided by people on the tour the night that the attraction opened, but the video only adds to the mystery surrounding the tragedy. In the video, a customer films their experience of walking through the attraction, getting to the top of the stairs leading to the basement, then backtracking as other customers who are in the basement push their way back up the stairs in a panic. As the customer leaves the attraction, several first responders show up and make their way into the house. News footage later showed first responders taking a body out of the hotel on a stretcher.
The film, reverting back to present day, then shows several people being interviewed about their opinions on what happened that night by a documentary crew. After they interview several people, the crew are shocked to learn that one of the haunted attraction renovators is still alive. They interview her and discover she has footage of the entire renovation. The documentary crew, hoping that the footage will reveal what really happened the night of the tragedy, rush to review the footage.
The rest of the film follows the haunted attraction renovators, Hell House LLC, as they renovate the hotel and uncover the dark history of the hotel.
If you love this movie, you might also love:
The Gallows (2015)
Lights Out (short film) (2013) YouTube link: https://youtu.be/FUQhNGEu2KA
Lights Out (2016)
Dead Silence (2007)
The Conjuring (2013)
The Amityville Horror (2005)
Session 9 (2001)
Lake Mungo (2008)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Below, I've included information about film content and spoilers. Film content contains minor spoilers. Movie discussion follows spoilers.
Any disturbing scenes?
Yes. A woman is struck on the head several times, causing her severe trauma. Blood is seen streaming down her face afterwards and she coughs up dark red blood. A man cuts his throat with a piece of glass (this is not shown, but implied) and he falls to the ground, choking and bleeding to death. A dead man is shown in a photograph, hung from the ceiling (his face is not shown). There are several chalk drawings of upside down crosses and pentagrams in the basement.
Yes. A man hits a woman over the head. A man cuts his throat. A man is shown hanging in an attic, struggling to breathe. There are several murders, but many are implied and not shown.
Not much. In one scene, several adults drink alcohol at a bar in the hotel.
The documentary crew begin to watch the newly discovered footage of the renovation crew and we are finally introduced to the members of Hell House LLC. The members are Alex, Paul, Sara, Mac, and Tony. In the beginning of the footage, we see the group on their way to the hotel, joking and occasionally arguing, but generally in good spirits. They get to the hotel and make their way inside, exploring the hotel and talking about how they will renovate in time for the Halloween season.
The group explores the first and second floors of the hotel as well as the attic before making their way to the basement. In the basement they discover several chalk drawings of upside-down crosses and pentagrams on the walls. The basement has a dirt floor and several items are shown strewn about the area. Sara picks up one of the items and discovers that it is a Bible. As she looks around, she notices that there are several Bibles on the floor and becomes disturbed. The camera pans over to a corner and shows an old suitcase, indicating that not all is at it seems in the house.
After exploring the house, Alex tells the group that unlike their last Halloween attraction, they will be staying at the hotel during the renovation. As the group settles in, Paul begins to have unsettling experiences. One night, he sees a woman standing in his room and believes that it is Sara, sleepwalking. The woman is shrouded in darkness, so Paul is unable to see the true identity of the woman. As the woman leaves the room, Paul shrugs the experience off as being simply weird and goes back to sleep.
As the crew continues to set up the house, they discuss how the customers will experience the haunted tour and where certain mannequins and props will go in the house. For the finale in the basement, they decide to sit three extremely creepy clown mannequins against a wall. The mannequins will face a female actor who will be chained to a wall as a "sacrifice". After the customers see the scene, they will exit via a storm door in the basement.
One night, Paul goes downstairs to check out some of the work the crew has done and comes across one of the clown mannequins at the top of the basement stairs. At first he thinks it is one of the crew messing with him, but when he looks back at the clown, he sees that its head has turned towards him in a manner of a few seconds. Terrified, he runs back to one of the crew members he saw earlier and sees another crew member that he believed was messing with him with the other crew member, making him even more terrified. He runs to the basement stairs to find the clown gone and decides to go downstairs. When he gets downstairs, he sees all the clowns sitting together like they had been before. This is the first indication to Paul that there is something terribly wrong with the hotel, yet he finds that most of the crew are strangely dismissive when he shows them the footage of what happened.
As the film progresses, we learn that the original owner of the hotel was interested in the town because of its name, which he believed to be the name of a demon who guarded the gates of Hell. The owner, Tully, was a suspected cultist (and/or into demon worship) and eventually hanged himself in his dining room after several guests of the hotel went missing.
Some time later, Paul wakes up at night and looks down the stairs and sees the clown mannequin standing at the bottom of the stairs. Tony wakes up and sees the clown as well and helps Paul move the mannequin to the side. Paul looks into a darkened room and sees Sara facing a wall and mumbling. At first she sounds garbled, but when Paul gets closer to her it sounds like she is talking backwards or speaking an unknown language. When they touch her to let her know they are there, she comes to and begins to cry. When Paul looks back at the mannequin, he discovers it is gone.
Paul takes off and looks for the mannequin only to find it has seemingly disappeared. He searches all over the first floor, but cannot find it. As he is leaving the dining room, the group hears a grandfather clock chiming. As they turn to the dining room to investigate, they find that the room has been rearranged to look like it did in the photograph of Tully (the original owner) when he hung himself. They turn to leave and see the clown at the end of the hall. They are terrified of passing the clown, but would rather risk passing it then stay downstairs, so they run past it and go back upstairs to their rooms.
The next day Paul secretly tapes Alex comforting Sara outside of the hotel, indicating that not even Sara's fright of the hotel is enough to make Alex leave. That night, Paul films in his room and tells the camera that it is three days until the opening of the attraction and goes to sleep. Later, he is awakened and sees a female with a nightgown sitting against the wall of his room. He screams and hides under the covers. He keeps peeking out to see where she is and Paul sees that she is right next to his bed. He screams and the camera is jostled, then it turns off.
The next morning, Tony finds Paul's bed empty and examines Paul's camera in confusion. He tries to find Paul, but has no luck. Later, when talking to Mac and Alex, he discovers that they just think that Paul ditched the group based on past behavior. Tony gives Alex his phone to call Paul and when Alex dials the number, he hears an unnatural high-pitched squealing sound and drops the phone.
That night Tony is awakened by a noise coming from the first floor of the hotel. When he leaves his room, he sees Mac already at the top of the stairs, looking down in confusion and worry. Although Tony is scared and doesn't believe Paul would play games with them to frighten them, Mac believes Paul is messing with them and goes downstairs to confront him. Mac explores the first floor and hears someone playing the piano in the foyer. When Mac ducks around the corner thinking he is going to confront Paul, he instead finds one of their mannequins sitting at the piano. He checks the mask, thinking it is Paul, and is upset to find that Paul is nowhere to be found. Tony and Mac then hear noise coming from the basement and head downstairs.
Tony becomes hyperaware of his surroundings and begins to panic, looking around in all directions while Mac searches the basement. Mac goes to lock the storm door in the basement and then goes to search the walk-in refrigerator or freezer. When Tony follows, he turns to look at the clowns and is disturbed to see them all facing his direction. He panics and runs into the refrigerator or freezer and tells Mac what he saw. Mac doesn't believe Tony and when they leave, the clowns are facing forward again, scaring Tony even further.
Before leaving the basement, Tony looks around and sees Paul sitting against a wall in the basement with his eyes closed. Mac and Tony try to wake Paul up and once Paul opens his eyes, he looks like a different person and doesn't answer any questions about where he's been.
The next day, after Tony asks Alex and Mac to come up with a plausible explanation for what happened to him the night before, grows frustrated when Alex and Mac cannot come up with a logical explanation. As Tony tries to get Alex and Mac to admit something weird is going on in the hotel, their refusal believe something terrible is happening in the hotel causes him to quit the company and leave the hotel in a rage.
As Tony leaves the hotel, Mac pleads with him not to leave and tells him he has to tell him something important. They go out to a field and talk about why Alex refuses to leave the hotel. Some of the footage is cut, leaving the reason why Alex refuses to leave a mystery, but after Mac gives Tony the explanation, Tony agrees to stay.
The next day the crew are preparing to open the attraction. Tony explains to Alex that Paul will not get out of bed and when he checks on Paul, he finds him still sleeping in bed even though it is well into the afternoon/evening. Alex assures the actors that nothing is wrong with Paul and states that everything is going as planned. Tony helps prepare the actress who is playing the sacrifice in the basement and assures an actor sitting with the mannequin clowns that everything is going well.
It is at that point that we again see the original footage from the customer going on the tour, but this time around it is more enlightening because it is interlaced with footage from the crew. We finally get to see that what scared everyone so badly; near the far wall of the basement a figure in dark robe has appeared and is standing before the chalk drawings of the upside-down cross and one of the pentagrams. Although it doesn't move, it frightens everyone because it is very tall and seems to have an inhuman face.
When the figure moves to the actress, it begins to harm her and everyone begins to panic and push their way up the stairs. It is difficult to see what happens to the actress, but she screams for a long time. As people are running out of the basement, at one point it looks like the actress is no longer chained to the wall and is instead hovering near the wall where the figure stood before it moved.
The robed figure is soon joined by other robed figures and they begin to attack the people in the house. It is complete chaos and we see customers running out the door and the crew running all over the house trying to figure out what is happening.
Mac sends Tony to the basement to try to figure out what is going on in the basement. Tony races ahead of Mac and when Mac gets to the top of the stairs, he sees Tony at the bottom of the stairs about to be attacked by a robed figure. As Mac goes to help Tony, the door slams shut and he goes upstairs to find the others, finding Sara coming down the stairs to the first floor. Mac ushers Sara up the stairs and tells her to get to the attic.
Mac and Sara run to the attic where they see Alex tied to noose that has been hung from the ceiling. Mac tries to get Alex down, but is attacked by the figures in dark robes. It is implied that Alex died from strangulation and Mac was killed by the figures. It is not shown at this point what happened to Sara, but she stated to the documentary crew earlier in the film that she escaped the hotel without harm.
It is at this point the footage review is stopped and the film reverts back to present time with the Sara being interviewed by the documentary crew. Sara asks if she can take a break for a couple of hours and the documentary crew agrees. Sara tells the crew she is staying in room 2C and tells the crew that they should go and investigate the hotel. The crew tells Sara that the hotel is boarded up and they can't get in, but Sara encourages them and tells them to go anyway. It is with this encouragement that the crew leaves to go visit the hotel.
Before they leave, they go to the front desk to leave a message with Sara, telling them where they went and when they'll be back. When the crew asks the front desk clerk about Sara's room, the clerk informs them that they do not have rooms with letters. The crew is confused and asks if Sara Havel is staying in the hotel and the clerk says that they don't have anyone staying there under that name. Since they are in a hurry, the crew shrugs it off, says that Sara is probably staying under another name and they will figure it out later. On the way to the hotel, another crew member who has continued to review the footage from the Hell House LLC crew comes across additional footage.
Reverting back to the footage from the first night of the attraction, we see Sara run downstairs after seeing Alex and Mac being killed in the attic. She is almost at the exit of the hotel when she encounters Paul. Paul hits her in the head (I believe he hit her with the camera) and she falls to the floor with several wounds to her head. Sara is still alive at this point but she is bleeding profusely from her head. She glances towards her feet and seems to follow some movement before she is violently dragged away by someone unseen. Paul stands for a few seconds and seems to be struggling with something before dropping what looks like a big piece of glass. He picks it up and it is implied that he cuts his throat. He drops to the floor and chokes to death on his own blood.
Reverting back to present time, the documentary crew member reviewing the footage of Sara and Paul's deaths tries to contact the members of the crew investigating the hotel. We see the documentary crew reach the hotel and they discover that the front door to the hotel is open. They go inside and begin to explore, pointing out where certain events happened that match what they saw in the footage.
We see one of the crew look at her phone and ignore it, saying she will call the person back later, indicating that she is ignoring the phone call of the crew member who discovered the footage of Sara and Paul. As the crew explores the hotel, the cameraman refuses to go into the basement, so the other crew member convinces him to head upstairs instead. As they are walking through the hotel, they discover a room marked 2C. The room is locked from the outside with a latch, indicating that it would be impossible for anyone to get into the room and lock it by themselves. The cameraman pleads with the crew member not to open it, but she does so anyway and opens the door. As the door opens, we see Sara sitting on a bed, with her back to the door.
Sara turns to the crew and we see that her face is bloody and her eyes look dead. We then see two robed figures beside her and they attack the crew, thus ending the film.
So, what did I think about this movie? Discussion time:
I thought this movie was very creepy. My favorite movie of all time is Session 9 (2001). I absolutely love how Session 9 is a slow-burning, intensely creepy movie and I find this movie to be similar in nature.
I usually prefer horror movies that allow me to use my imagination more than seeing physical monsters, but in this case, I thought they used the physical monsters really well. The clowns in the basement actually scared me in the most surprising ways. I honestly expected more jump scares or the use of music to indicate anxiety and fright, but this movie didn't use those techniques, which to me is indicative of great writing and direction.
I thought the acting was great; I believed all of the characters and I believed in the story. There was no point where I felt like the story was boring or unbelievable. I was confused at one point about why they continued to stay there if that much activity was going on, but I figured a good reason could be that Alex had done something dumb with their money after the last haunted attraction. I researched to see if I was right or if other people had other ideas (I also thought that maybe Alex was related to Tully or a cult member, or maybe he was secretly obsessed with the demon stuff). I did find some interesting information on Reddit that was (I think) from the writer and director, Stephen Cognetti:
He explains that they did include an explanation about why the crew stayed, but that they ended up cutting it out. He explained that Alex lost their money, so that was plausible to me.
As far as the overall experience, I thought this movie was very interesting and engaging. In a strange way, I thought the movie was much longer than it was because of how much it drew me in and mentally exhausted me. I was on edge much of the time because I was terrified of seeing that clown in the hallway or something worse. It reminded me a lot of playing the games Layers of Fear (2016) and Wilson's Heart (2017), where you know something is behind you, but you don't want to turn around to see it. Every time Paul, Tony, or Mac would turn the camera around behind them I would brace myself, expecting to see something horrifying. I love the amount of suspense, horror, and tension this movie created.
I will say this about the movie, if I saw a clown mannequin in the hallway and had no idea how it got there, that thing would be set on fire.
As of today, production on Hell House LLC 2 is being completed and it is supposed to be released around October 2018, so we'll see how that turns out. If it's anything like the first movie, I'll be very interested to check it out.
Here's the writer and director's Twitter if you are interested in updates on the sequel:
Have you seen this movie? Are you interested in seeing this movie? What do you like about it? Did you find it scary? Please share your thoughts below!