Of the more recent batch of found-footage flicks, the original Hell House LLC is one of the best. While it didn’t quite reinvent the wheel, it managed to be a legitimately spooky ride with some subtle but effective scares and a compelling mystery, all wrapped up in an atmospheric package perfect for Halloween viewing. Naturally, fans have been clamoring for a sequel for some time now, and the Cognetti’s have finally answered with Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel, which premiered exclusively on Shudder.
Vasile Flutur returns as Mitchell Cavanaugh, the only survivor of the previous film’s ill-fated documentary team, who’s now been recruited by investigative journalist Jessica Fox (Jillian Geurts) for an expedition into the bowels of the titular Hell House. Sure enough, as soon as the reluctant team sets foot into the seemingly abandoned attraction, supernatural shenanigans begin to occur, proving that returning to the Abaddon Hotel might not have been such a good idea.
From there, we’re treated to a gauntlet of traditional haunted house scares, occasionally cutting back to talk show interviews and even police footage as the film attempts to get to the bottom of the Abaddon mystery. I have to give Stephen Cognetti props for the more complex use of found-footage here, with multiple video sources and timelines at times reminding me of Koji Shiraishi’s work with Noroi. Nevertheless, The Abaddon Hotel lacks most of the charm present in the first film, having dialed back the well-orchestrated scares and Halloween atmosphere in favor of dark corridors and zombie make-up.
While the original Hell House felt as if it were building towards something as the footage led up to the mysterious massacre, the sequel feels unfocused, with several sequences dragging on for way too long and an end twist that ultimately falls flat. Luckily, there are some more likable characters this time around, so you do feel sorry for these people during their horrific ordeal, but the house itself still outshines everyone in its role as a memorable antagonist.
The expanded mythology behind the hotel is also legitimately interesting, but excessive exposition and a lack of mystery end up hindering the film, as the story would be a lot more interesting with a few questions left unanswered. To me, the biggest problem here is that Hell House II feels a lot like filler, biding its time with a smaller story as we wait for a true sequel to come along and actually expand the franchise. This makes sense when you consider the fact that this is the middle chapter in a proposed trilogy, but at the end of the day, we’re still left with a disappointing sequel.
Hell House LLC II is still a somewhat entertaining ride, containing a few good scares and some creative use of found-footage, but I can’t help but feel that this is a stumble in the wrong direction when compared to the first film. Hopefully, Cognetti will be able to iron out these issues if and when another sequel drops by, but until then, horror fans are better off re-watching the first film this Halloween season.
Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel is available now on Shudder.