Let’s go back to a haunted hotel.
The first Hell House LLC is a bit of a diamond in the rough as far as found footage horror goes. Interesting camera tricks and decent pacing made the film more interesting and entertaining than a lot of similar films. I liked the fact that the first film used the found footage to their advantage by setting up jump scares and making us pay close attention.
The sequel retreads a lot of the same ground as once again people are venturing onto the haunted hotel grounds. We also spend a lot of time talking about the first film—too much. The retreading of an old narrative when we will be going back to the same location doesn’t really allow us to get to know the new main characters. At about 90 minutes (including credits) we spend roughly 20% of the film situating the audience to what is going to happen.
A lot of horror movies do this—we have a long set-up that establishes the place is haunted, but some people doubt it. Smarmy idiots on television try to argue that the incidents of the first film were all an elaborate ruse. While this might be more realistic, we as the audience don’t need this kind of lead-up. We more than likely saw the first film, and it is unlikely this is the first horror movie someone will watch, so we don’t need the set-up.
We end up with the sole survivor tagging along with another investigative crew. Obviously, they’re going to go back to the hotel (logic be damned).
The problem with this film (and this review) is that I am trying to force it into a linear narrative—it isn’t. We spend too much time jumping around from talk-shows, old footage, new footage, old people we know, new people we don’t, and so forth. The narrative as is makes for a confusing view—and not in an interesting way.
Our new group doesn’t have the same dynamic as the original. I do think this is the lesser of the two films, but this one does still show some nice camera tricks and builds the tension nicely. I think this one got a little busy in the writing room and this detracted from the overall quality. However, once we get down to the scares the film still knows how to build solid tension.
The documentary feel doesn’t work as well as the renovation team of the original. I may be harping here, but this one just isn’t as good as the first. This is not to say that the sequel is bad, just not great. I still stand by the first one being a great example of how found footage can still make fun and interesting horror movies. The sequel does this to a lesser extent, but I don’t think it is an absolute failure. A lot of reviews seem to be 5/5 or 1/5 and I think this is somewhere more in the middle.
The characters made the first one and, in some ways, they undo the second. Anytime we have to deal with a pretentious medium is always painful (although I kind of liked him). The problem here is that any one of the groups could have made a viable film but jamming them all together makes for more of a mess.
If they make a third one, which I bet they will, I think narrowing the scope and focusing on the scares would yield better results. When this one is good it is good, but sometimes it is a little drawn out. A bit of a disappointing final act, but no spoilers here.
Worth a watch if you liked the first one.