The first Hell House LLC stands tall as a late-but-great entry in the found footage subgenre. Once thought to be a one-and-done, this style of filmmaking widely popularized by 1999’s seminal The Blair Witch Project, still delivers many gems even to this day. While its two sequels did not match the simplistic brilliance of the first Hell House, my interest was piqued with this fourth installment. Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor aims to continue the story, mainly by connecting the film in an organic way to the others. Subsequently, aspects of this act as a semi-prequel that slide a pretty neat new angle into the franchise at large. Writer/director Stephen Cognetti manages to surprise and shock viewers new and old, preying on coulrophobia through nightmarish, haunting visuals.
Back in the 1980s, two members of the wealthy Carmichaels were murdered in cold blood. Though the father was suspected as the killer, the case remains unsolved. A group of investigators—from the aptly-named netsleuths.com—with ample practice dealing with so-called “haunted” places arrives at the site of these murders, the infamous Carmichael Manor, aiming to do what has never been done before. They will stay five days, and uncover the truth about the Carmichael family murders. This means overstaying their welcome, exploring every solitary noise and bizarre occurance, and copious bouts of in-fighting. Definitely don’t forget to throw in interviewing random townspeople for good measure, Blair Witch-style.
Of course, if you have seen one of these (or even any of the similar flicks such as Grave Encounters or The Houses October Built), it will be no spoiler to reveal that hijinks ensue. Horrifying artifacts from the haunted Abaddon Hotel rear their ugly heads, including those ghastly clowns. This series gets more milage from scary clowns than any other—Cognetti frames them in such a manner that they will haunt your nightmares well after the credits roll. Those clowns are the enduring imagery of Hell House, destined to live on for years to come every time spooky season rolls around. Who cares if the characters are a little thin and forgettable. Was anyone really watching these for the character development?
Over the course of several nights, the group encounters unnerving screen shares, untouched balls rolling out of the darkness, the sounds of a girl singing, and seemingly random loud thuds. Who or what could be behind the activity? This Hell House is definitely a step in the right direction after the middling third entry. If creator Stephen Cognetti can continue to craft noticeably clever scares in creative ways, who would not love to make a return trip to The Carmichael Manor? Perhaps this Origins will be the first in a long line of side-entries—be sure to stick around after the credits for a little hint as to what else may be in store.
Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor goes back to basics when it debuts exclusively to Shudder on October 30th, and made its world premiere debut at 2023’s Telluride Horror Show.
NOTE: For fans who don’t yet have a subscription, Shudder offers a 7-Day free trial; however, Terror Films Releasing has teamed with Shudder to offer this special promo code: HELLHOUSELLC4. The code will be good for a 14-Day Free Trial from the date activation, but this special code expires on October 21, 2023, so be sure to activate it before October 21 but no earlier than October 18 to catch the premiere of Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor.