Send In the Clowns: Hell House LLC (Stephen Cognetti, 2015)

Don't bother! They're here!!!!!

Send In the Clowns: Hell House LLC (Stephen Cognetti, 2015)
Five people with the combined IQ of a bowl of Chex Mix.

There are times when it seems blissfully easy, the life of a horror director. All you have to do is come up with a concept like “Killer Room: The Room That Kills You If You Go In There,” and then, you have to come up with between three to six characters who will go into that room. They don’t need anything but the barest of characterization. They won’t be well-acted, so there’s no point in handing them meaty dialogue. Their reasons for going into the room can be — and will be — stupid. (“No one has ever come out of that room alive — and that’s why we’ve got to rescue Timmy!”) They just have to go into the room, the one that kills you, and die there, and if you pull that off, your audience is going to have the time of their lives. 

All of which is to say: Hell House LLC, a movie whose passionate embrace of dumbassery is apparent by the time you hit the third word of its title, is a Killer Room movie. More accurately, it extends the concept of the killer room to an entire killer haunted house, which used to be a killer hotel, which has some kind of killer mythology that gets explained at mind-numbing length in the final act of the second movie, by which time you have already sort of figured it out. The worldbuilding in the Hell House LLC franchise is extensive, and also completely unnecessary, given that its premise is fully explained in the found-footage YouTube tour of the haunted house that opens the first movie: People go in. They die. Any questions? 

Hell House LLC also scared me so much that I had to pause it — multiple times — to take a breath and remind myself it was just a movie. It’s a scare machine, but it’s a lovingly crafted scare machine, and it works. 

I resort to food metaphors a lot, when I talk about this kind of thing, but: In the second season of The Bear, we watch Sydney, a young chef, make an omelette. It’s the simplest thing in the world to make, and you can do it yourself in about five minutes, but the show slows down and observes each individual step, making it seem less like a throw-away than a ritual. By executing every step with perfect skill, and by showing enough creativity in the small details — she sprinkles potato chips on it! — Sydney is embodying fidelity and love for the whole of her craft. She doesn’t need to show off or do the impossible; she just needs to do this one thing well. 

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