A lot of people REALLY liked Hell House LLC when it appeared a few years ago. It's not hard to see why. It was a found footage movie that smartly built up tension and supplied scares with good structuring of the tale and many unsettling details scattered throughout almost every scene. I liked it. Just liked it. The acting was so-so, it didn't do enough to provide the all-important reason for anyone to keep filming, and it felt a bit slight. But it was still a lot better than dozens of other found footage movies I have endured over the years.
Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel is a better film. It compares to the first film as Grave Encounters 2 compares to Grave Encounters. Basically, everything is elevated, making it far less believable but also far more entertaining. There are some truly bonkers moments here. More importantly, there are some scares that had me swearing at my TV screen as I waited for my heartbeat to calm down a bit.
The plot follows on from the events of the first film. People are still curious about just what happened at the opening night of Hell House, LLC, and a TV show featuring the man who made the documentary about it (Mitchell, played by Vasile Flutur) eventually leads to a return trip to the location. The brave souls heading back in there are an investigative journalist (Jessica Fox, played by Jillian Guerts), her colleagues (Molly, played by Joy Shatz, and cameraman David, played by David Austen), a psychic (Kyle Ingleman), his main colleague (didn't get his name, never mind), and the only one who knows what danger they might be getting themselves into - Mitchell. Once inside, it starts to become clear that the site of the Hell House, the Abaddon Hotel, doesn't want them to leave.
Once again written and directed by Stephen Cognetti, this is a sequel that seems to have been made by someone given a chance to have more fun and cut loose with his sophomore feature. As well as the main narrative strand, there are a number of sequences that show how others have fared when they have decided to bravely enter the hotel on their own. All of those sequences have at least one great scare, making it easier to forgive the fact that Cognetti has decided to use the found footage format in a very loose way. There's no cohesive "end product" here, and no real rhyme or reason to the editing of various clips, aside from making things easier for Cognetti to have fun with viewers and save some decent reveals for the final act.
The acting is serviceable from everyone involved. Nobody really excels (although Ingleman stands out as the showbiz psychic) but they all do a good enough job of looking suitably petrified and running away from scary figures that have no right to be moving around in the building.
For me, this is a film all about the scares. Some may enjoy the way the plot unfolds, I could take or leave the way Cognetti expands things from the first film, but it's the effectiveness of the scares that make this a film I can see a lot of horror fans taking a shine to. There are jump scares, yes, but they're not used as often as the more effective, subtle until they become blatant, scares. I'm on about the scares that are there, almost front and centre, but it takes your mind a moment to realise that something is very off with the image you're looking at. Or scares that happen while the main characters are oblivious, some making you reach for the rewind function even as the iciness of you rblood in your veins is already convincing you that you did indeed just see what you think you saw.
I HIGHLY recommend Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel. October (which is a whole month of Halloween treats for us horror fans) is just over a week away. This should definitely be on your list of potential viewings.
Americans can get the first film on DVD here.