Stephen Cognetti‘s HELL HOUSE LLC II: THE ABADDON HOTEL premiered on Shudder streaming service this past Thursday, September 20, just in time for Halloween. And the gnarly clown is back! The piano tune is back! The portal to Hell is open, according to the Latin scrawled on the wall: EST APERTA PORTA, but our main characters can’t read Latin so they pretty much ignore the message. So who is the message for then? New check-ins?
Morning Mysteries, a cheap morning talk show on the weirdo channel explores the Hell House incident. The host, Suzy McCombs (Amanda K. Morales) interviews a panel to determine if the documentary was real or an elaborate hoax. The panel consists of a grouchy Abaddon Town Official, Arnold Tasselman (Brian David Tracy); the only survivor of the the first film, Mitchell Cavanaugh (Vasile Flutur); and Brock Davies (Kyle Ingleman), a smirking, know-it-all psychic.
The Inside, a news blog from Brooklyn, also wants to investigate the hotel after a series of strange disappearances, text messages, and emails. They don’t believe in ghosts but they think the Hell House LLC documentary is a conspiracy that may involve town officials. The police did very little to investigate the disappearance of the Hell House organizers after the disaster that ended in the death of 15 people, which was blamed on a malfunction. Some of the bodies were never found.
People are still curious about what happened in there. Neighborhood loners and others have broken into the hotel entering it quite easily, the doors swinging open for them. We see them scurry through the hotel, black robed figures popping in and out of the shadows, their cell phones recording their terror. You don’t have to break into Hell House, that’s for sure, because the hotel wants guests to check in and stay forever.
Jessica Fox (Jillian Geurts), the leader of The Inside, wants to find footage taken by the original owner that’s been left lying around in a freezer. She convinces Mitchell to go with her to the hotel after a couple of drinks. The news team is accompanied by the showboating psychic who has his own cameraman and together they sneak into The Abaddon – to find out that there are some places that are best left alone. NEVER PLAY THE OUIJA SOLO BRUH. That’s like horror film 101.
The sequel attempts to explain what happened in the first movie, since many viewers were confused by the ending, although the mystery may be the reason the story was so compelling. Some might think that the speeches were too long, some could argue that the dining room scene should have been cut from the film because it gave too much away. We want a glimpse of the reality behind the Lake of Fire, we don’t want every dank detail. But I thought the rant was interesting and cool because how often do we get such a detailed backstory?
Horror villains rarely explain their motivations or manipulations, and with good reason – it makes them less scary. Comedians usually don’t explain their jokes in the middle of a set either. The devil, who torments the family in Poltergeist, never drops in to say, Hey, this is why I kidnapped your daughter and possessed a tree. Freddy Krueger taunts his victims but he doesn’t philosophise so much as make cheesy quips.
Despite some uneven acting, chunky exposition, and some strange editing choices, like placing a large chunk of the talk show sketch in the beginning of the film, I really liked HELL HOUSE, LLC II, because of the set, the clowns, the living dead, and the lyrical speeches about snake gods. It may be far fetched, but I hope Universal Studios creates a Hell House LLC maze, filled with ghosts, demons, zombies, suicide victims, and whatever those robed black things were that came out of the wall in the basement.
And shout out to a moment in the film when a character says that hell is glorious. My first thought as an atheist was – is hell glorious? I thought it was supposed to suck. What is Hell like for those who willingly go there? Usually people are trying to escape hell because they’re being tormented by Satan for their sins. But this cult likes it down there. What the hell is happening in that damn portal? What are they doing in the Lake of Fire? Are they doing drugs and fornicating in the fiery bowels of hell like some sort of early 90’s Burning Man? No wonder people are terrified of the Hotel Abaddon.
HELL HOUSE LLC II: THE ABADDON HOTEL is streaming on Shudder for the next 90 days. Terror Films will release the film on Friday, January 4th on Amazon Instant, itunes, Vudu and other platforms. Horror fans new to Shudder can create an account on www.shudder.com and use the promo code HH2TFSH for a 14 day free trial.