HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE (2019)
Directed by Stephen Cognetti
Written by Stephen Cognetti
Starring Gabriel Chytry, Elizabeth Vermilyea, Sam Kazzi, Theodore Bouloukos, Brian David Tracy, Bridgid Abrams, Leo DeFriend, Jordan Kaplan, Danny Bellini, Ryan Jennifer Jones, Gore Abrams, Jared Hacker, Joe Bandelli, Scott Richey, Olivia Roldan, Adam Schneider, Joy Shatz, Jillian Geurts, Dan Dobransky, Joe Walz, Duane Nakia Cooper
Find out more about this film on Twitter @HellhouseLLC
Rounding out the HELL HOUSE LLC trilogy, Stephen Cognetti delivers another found footage trip into that haunted hotel in HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE. While the series seemed to hit a bit of a stall in HELL HOUSE LLC II: THE ABADDON, thing definitely pick up steam with this third entry. A lot of the mistakes in the sequel are addressed here and it makes for a much stronger entry in this horror series.
What’s the premise?
When billionaire Russell Wynn (Gabriel Chytry) decides to buy the Abaddon Hotel and reopen it to the public nine years after the events of Part II. This time around, he is bringing an interactive production of FAUST to play out within the hotel with the audience in roaming from room to room following the story as it plays out. But as it gets closer to opening night, strange things continue to occur solidifying the rumors that the hotel is haunted with some kind of evil forces. Still, Wynn is dedicated to getting the show open to the public on Halloween night and it’s all caught on camera by a news crew doing a piece on the eccentric billionaire.
Are the actors believably acting like they aren’t acting?
Things feel a more comfortable and well acted in Part III than in the second entry in this series. The film seems to have taken a bit more time to have the characters get comfortable with one another or maybe the actors are just of better quality in this film, Gabriel Chytry plays the mysterious Russell Wynn very well, giving him both likable and untrustworthy qualities. The cast is a bit bigger this time around with a camera crew, Russell and his PR crew, along with some of the cast and crew of the production to follow. This gives the viewer a lot of threads to follow, but for the most part it’s all put together in an orderly and sensible fashion.
Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional or a REC-drag away from the camera?
There are a few drag-aways and maybe a tearful confession here and there, but it isn’t distracting. While there are variations of the scares we saw in the original, this threequel pushes itself to come up with a few new set pieces to work with rather than just repeat the scares from previous entries. It really feels like work was done to come up with some new scares here and there involving camera movement and choreographed scares.
Does is seem like this footage was actually found and not untouched by additional production (which means there is no omniscient editor making multiple edits or an invisible orchestra providing music)?
HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE is again told in a documentary format. It is stated at the beginning that the footage is compiled from various forms of media in order to make sense of what happened. Still, it’s an awful lot of editing and sifting through tapes to make this seem feasible. Given that the two other films did this the same way, I give it a pass at the reasoning behind splicing it all together in this format, but it’s stretching it at this point in the series. I also have some issue with the flashback static-filled break-ins from the previous films that occur just at the right time to provide some kind of clarity or elaboration on what is happening in the scene. It is a way to add information without resorting to a lengthy, dialog-heavy discourse (a complaint I had with the second film). But it doesn’t make sense that these snippets that break in via static are added in if this is supposed to be footage that is found.
The final moments of the film drop the found footage motif completely in order to wrap up the series. Again, this is a break from the established format, but I forgive the filmmakers for this decision because by this time in the trilogy, they have sort of earned the right to set down the camera and just have a scene play out to conclude the series.
Is there a valid reason the camera isn’t dropped and they just get the hell out of there?
At first, the whole thing is being filmed as a behind the scenes story on Russell Wynn since he is very secretive about his personal life. As things start getting paranormal, the camera crew become more entrenched in getting to the root of the story, and thus the famous line, “Don’t stop filming!” is dropped.
Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
No, all of the HELL HOUSE LLC films have been good at peppering in the spooky bits evenly through the film. Be it small details in the background or moments taken apart from the main footage, the film manages to stay interesting all the way through to the end.
Does anything actually happen?
HELL HOUSE LLC III makes up for the rather repetitive aspects of Part II by starting a new story and new mystery that is contained mostly in this film. The whole thing fits perfectly into the series and it moves the whole thing along to a new level. But it also tells an insular story in itself. Looked at as a whole, the film series really does a great job of both telling a story and making every installment count in the long run.
Does the film add anything to the subgenre and is this one worth watching?
I think HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE and the films that proceed it are one of the more successful franchises specifically in the found footage genre. It tells a complete story, yet manages to deliver scares all the way through. This film brings a lot of plot threads together and the final moments are a nice bow on top for the series. As a whole, the HELL HOUSE LLC movies are a real achievement. It stumbled along the way, but this third installment does a lot right and manages to give a nice sense of completion. I don’t think there needs to be more HELL HOUSE LLC films, but as these three films seem to have explored the material thoroughly, provided most of the answers to nagging questions, and given it a proper sendoff.