Not a title that rolls off the tongue, Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor, but it gets the point across. And, as far as an origin story goes, it is less of a retcon than the last “proper” film in the series. Even more surprisingly it is a strong contender for being the best entry in the franchise, right up there with the original’s director’s cut. That’s not something you often see with an origin story.
Plot-wise, there isn’t much more to Carmichael than most found-footage films. Three cold-case ghost-hunters mysteriously disappear after staying in the haunted Carmichael Manor. When their video cameras are found, proof of their fate is revealed. As is ironclad evidence of ghosts existing, which you would think would be the headline.
Regardless: A terrifying film Carmichael is, with a good mix of creeping eeriness and startling jump scares. Shadows appear in the distance, and a masked woman peeks out from behind the manor’s stately columns—all the makings of an old-school haunted house movie. And fair warning to those who suffer from coulrophobia: The scary clowns are back in full force. (“Coulrophobia” = fear of clowns. Never say this site isn’t educational.)
If you have not watched any of the previous Hell House movies, you’ll be fine. There are a lot of things that won’t track in the bigger picture, but none of that takes away from the core plot.
For those who have watched the originals, there is a lot to hang onto. While the third Hell House tried to wrap up the trilogy a bit too hamfistedly—the heaven vs. hell thing was excessive—Carmichael scales things back to its basics. The Abaddon Hotel and its cult’s backstory is greatly simplified, and leaves a lot more space for interpretations. Scaling back some of the more ambitious production values also helps—instead of seeing cheaply costumed cultists running around, everything here is shown in the distance, giving off more of a threatening vibe.
And the clowns—the clown level is through the roof! Who doesn’t love good clown scares?
The found-footage genre is its own little beast existing in a vacuum from most other genres. Which is to say, Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor might not be for everyone. But, as far as anything within that category goes, it’s one worth taking a chance on. Even the actors feel more naturalistic than most within this type of films.
Plus, if you’re simply there for the scares, you in all likelihood will find them here.
More Hell Houses
- The original Hell House LLC duology
- Hell House LLC: The Director’s Cut
- Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire
Letterboxd summary: A group of cold case investigators stay at the Carmichael Manor, site of the grisly and unsolved murders of the Carmichael family back in the eighties. After four nights, the group was never heard from again. What is discovered on their footage is even more disturbing than anything found on the Hell House tapes.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||5/6|