The creator of the Hell House LLC trilogy of films, Stephen Cognetti returns with his latest installment of the found footage horror series Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor. This time we step away from the familiar setting of the Abaddon Hotel and to explore the secrets of the Carmichael Manor.
Set in 2021, Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor follows cold-case investigator Margot Bentley (Bridget Rose Perrotta) and her crew consisting of her realtor girlfriend Rebecca (Destiny Leilani Brown) and her troubled brother Chase (James Liddell). Margot has been given five days of unfettered access by the current owner to explore and possibly unlock the mystery surrounding the manor. Armed with video cameras and her reluctant crew she begins a journey where each day the enigma surrounding the manor grows deeper and more terrifying.
Found footage horror is one of those gimmicks that I began to grow tired of. Ever since The Blair Witch became such a massive success it seemed like every director looking to score a quick, cheap hit would default to that cliched method. Although there were a few unique films that followed, the quality was few and far between. That is, until I came across Hell House LLC. Something about that first film grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. The growing dread felt real and even though the plot was a bit far-fetched, the way it was presented felt plausible. The sequels were enjoyable as well but nothing quite hit that same level as the first. When I saw that Cognetti was building out the universe from the Abaddon, I jumped at the chance to see if that feeling could be recaptured.
Origins created that same type of feeling for me right off the bat beginning with interviews basically spelling out the investigating crew’s fate. By the time we see file one from the investigation we’re already primed and pumped, ready for all the gory details. Transitioning from the Abaddon Hotel to the Carmichael Manor brings the promise of new fears and fresh scares building upon the terror already experienced 20 years earlier.
Cognetti wastes no time tying the two locations together as day one unfolds and we see that all too familiar black & white faced harlequin and his clown associates standing menacingly in the dark recesses of the house. Even our black clad, hooded Satanists make an appearance. Initially, I thought that would be detrimental to the story, relying on old tropes from the previous films. But to my surprise, Cognetti was able to utilize them in a way that felt familiar but also new, tying everything together in one hellish universe.
The scares are simple but effective. What begins as unexplained loud thuds over the course of days progresses to disembodied singing, balls rolling seeming unassisted out of the darkness and a masked young girl peeking around corners wanting to play. Oh and those damn clown mannequins. The ever-so-slight movements as the camera momentarily shifts away and back is enough to haunt your nightmares. It was effective in the first Hell House LLC and still got me this go-round. As a fan of this series, I was thoroughly entertained.
Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor goes back to the basics but shows promise in what looks to be an ever-expanding universe. I’m excited to see what comes next from Cognetti and his team. You can find this one streaming on Shudder October 30th.