Movie Review: HELL HOUSE LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel

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hell house llc 2Terror Films
2018
NR

Last year around this time, I stumbled across a little horror flick entitled Hell House LLC on the streaming service I utilize. I went in not expecting much, and came out of it far more impressed with the movie than I had expected. It was rather effective for squeezing as much quality horror out of the small budget it had, and became one of my favorites in the found footage category of horror movies.

As it turns out, while I would have been satisfied with just a one-and-done movie, the creator of Hell House LLC envisioned a trilogy, and has just released the second installment in September of 2018 (this year, as of the time of this writing). I was unaware of this, and found out about it when Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel was a featured review on the Who Goes There? Podcast. This sequel is available for streaming exclusively on the Shudder TV site, and will become available in a wider market come January of next year, but I had to check this out on the Greatest Season of the Year just because. Let’s take a look, shall we?

It’s been eight years since the opening night tragedy of Hell House, LLC and still many unanswered questions remain. Thanks to an anonymous tip, investigative journalist Jessica Fox is convinced that key evidence is hidden inside the abandoned Abaddon Hotel–evidence that will shed light on the hotel’s mysteries. She assembles a team equally hungry for answers with one goal: break into the hotel and discover the truth.

When compared to the first Hell House LLC movie, The Abaddon Hotel feels a bit weaker in execution. It doesn’t seem as focused in the plot, and seems to rely a bit too much on trying to answer all the questions that were raised with the first one. The movie managed to create the thick atmospheric tension and dread of the first movie; indeed, the inter-splicing of footage from other outside victims of the hotel helped to build the stakes for what the main characters are up against. Two come from a couple of kids who venture into the hotel on a challenge or dare, and seemed to me to punctuate how entirely stupid the kids these days are. A little tip, boys and girls: When you go up to a run-down, purportedly haunted place that others have rumored to never returned from after going in, and the door opens right up for you by itself, like it wants you to come right in, that’s the signal to TURN AROUND AND RUN AWAY.. I don’t care if there’s a visible plate of cookies right there. To quote a certain Mon Calamarian Fleet Admiral, “ITS A TRAP!”

That little geeky rant aside, I do have to admit that the character building here is pretty good. With the exception of the psychic guy (which, just by the way he was played here, was my default favorite character, regardless of how everything about him was a cliche’d trope, right down to his demise), I found myself surprisingly caring for the film crew that ventured into the hotel looking for answers. Mind you, once inside the hotel, the movie tended to rely a bit too much on the mannequins moving positions when you look away and look back. Still a bit effective, yes, but I found myself splitting my attention between the scene going on in the foreground and keeping an eye on the background for the inevitable Jack-In-The-Box scare to walk by. I have to admit, though, that at least the movie didn’t use any music stingers to insult your intelligence, and let us use our imaginations for a lot of the horror here.

Sadly, the weakest part of the movie is at the final ten, fifteen minutes. This is where the actions stop and become a full-on exposition dump, possibly in an effort to explain and answer the questions everyone had after watching the first movie. This, in my not-so-humble opinion, sucks away a good chunk of the mystery surrounding the hotel itself. It doesn’t completely ruin the movie, by any means; it just would have been a much more satisfying middle part of a trilogy had it just cut out that exposition part at the end and left us with another disappearance of another film crew, like at the end of the first movie. In other words, the twist fell flat and needed some pruning.

Overall, Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel was a decent follow-up to the surprisingly good first movie. It managed to maintain a level of spooky atmosphere and genuine tension, all the while, like with actual haunted house attractions this time of year, the intensity isn’t as great the second go-round, simply because of familiarity. Still, highly recommended, this one.

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Uncle NecRo Watches: HALLOWEEN 2018

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UNCLE NECRO WATCHEShalloween 2018 banner
It’s been 40 years since the release of the horror classic that gave birth to our greatest fears in a William Shatner mask. Of course, Uncle NecRo and Brian went to see it, more out of morbid curiosity than anything else. Were we pleasantly surprised by a treat? Or did this turn out to be yet another nasty trick? Listen in and find out…

necrosarx@gmail.com

Movie Review: PRAY.

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prayCross Shadow Productions
2007
NR

I’ve always said that the horror genre is the perfect medium for Christians to get involved in. I say that with absolutely no sarcasm or irony whatsoever. But, of course, this is generally not very well received by most of my fellow brethren and sisteren who share the faith in Christ Jesus as I do. You may have noticed that I don’t generally watch a lot of Evangelical Christian produced movies, for the obvious reasons. But, once in a while, I come across something so utterly adorable that the Evangelical Christian market puts out, I have to actually watch it just to marvel at it. Sometimes I enjoy it for all the wrong reasons. It’s the same reason why I love movies like The Room and Birdemic.

Recently, thanks mainly to the YouTube channel Say Goodnight Kevin, I discovered the attempt to make a Dove-Approved, family friendly slasher horror. That, of course, seems as feasible as dividing by zero. But, then, here we go. The movie is called Pray. (that period is actually part of the title, not the indicator that I’m done writing the sentence), and I believe I may have found that rare treat for my bad movie watchin’ tastes. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Madison and Lacy enjoy an out-of-town Christian rock concert. After some eerie events, the friends decide to drive back to their hometown. However, someone or something follows them home! Events unfold that find Madison alone at the mall later that evening. The mall closes, and we find our heroine mysteriously trapped inside. It will take her resolute strength and unflinching faith to escape!

Pray. is the most amazeballs movie I’ve every had the gleeful joy of watching. I mean that. This movie manages to hit near The Room levels of badness that it must be seen to be believed. There is just so much to unravel here that I really don’t know where to begin. But, here goes.

First off, not only do we start with a text of the definition of the word “miracle”, but the movie itself doesn’t think that we, the viewers, are competent enough to take it in, so there’s a handy-dandy voice-over reading the text out loud for us. I love it when the movie I’m watching decides to insult my intelligence right off the bat. It gets this out of the way, so I can settle in and enjoy things. Anyway, the acting here is about what you would expect from a low-budget Christian-based independent flick–meaning, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used volunteers from the church to film this, with a script that just had a general outline of what was going to go on, some minimal dialogue actually written out, then the rest just improvised for filler. There’s a scene early on, when the gang of kids emerge from where the nondescript “Christian rock concert” was, and the WGWAG* has his guitar strapped to him. He wasn’t a member of the band. He brought his acoustic guitar with him to the concert. Look, I’m acquainted with plenty of acoustic guitar enthusiast youth group types, and I’ve yet to witness any one of them take their guitar with them to a concert, Christian, rock or otherwise, unless they’ve got a set to play themselves. But, I digress.

The pacing and editing is shoddy, the film making is worse than amateur, many of the shots were lit very badly, and don’t even get me started about the complete lack of actual scares, tension or suspense in this so-called “horror” movie. Look, I understand that, to get a movie “Dove Approved”, there has to be certain homogenizing going on to get just the right amount of sanctification to make this family friendly. I wouldn’t be complaining much if the makers of this movie just relied heavily on jump scares, but even that’s too scary for Christians, apparently. Mind you, there’s a lot of music cue buildup to what you may thing will be a scary payoff, but no. The actual killer in this–listed on the IMDB page as “the Shape”, so they’ve ripped off something from a much, much better movie, par for the course for any Evangelical Christian attempt at pop culture–looks so very much lame: a hoodie and one of those translucent masks that you can get at any dollar store nearby. And that final twist ending itself not only insults your intelligence, but then punches it in the gut, and spits on it as it lays on the ground in the fetal position, before riding off with its girlfriend on a motorcycle. Seriously, this twist will make you pine for the days when “The call is coming from inside the house!” made your bellybutton pucker.

So, what else do I have to say? Would you believe there have been two sequels to this movie? With the third one in 3D. Because of course there is. You better believe I have those two cued up in my streaming account as we speak. In the meantime, though, Pray. (you gotta remember that period, it’s important) needs to be watched by everybody. Highly recommended for all the wrong reasons.

[*=“White Guy With Acoustic Guitar”]

Movie Review: TRICK OR TREATS

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trick or treatsLonestar Pictures
1982
R

“You’re cute. Are you the babysitter?”
“Well, you’re not. That’s a stuid thing to do.”
“It’s Halloween!”

As the Halloween season continues, I came across this obscure title set during the night of Halloween–the slasher Trick Or Treats. See, to differentiate this one from the other two better known Halloween flicks Trick Or Treat or Trick R’ Treat. I need to stop referencing better movies in my reviews. Anyway, that and this particular movie was released a few years before those two afore mentioned movies.

I came across Trick Or Treats on — where else? — the stream on Amazon, as one of the horror flicks set during Halloween. I had never heard of this one, so I threw it on to see how this was. *sigh* Let’s see if this was a treat or a trick.

Try and guess which way this is going to go.

Mr. and Mrs. Adams are attending a Halloween masquerade party and decide to leave their precoucious son Christopher in the care of Linda, a local babysitter. Christopher is a master of mischievous pranks and continually batters Linda with them, until a bizarre turn of events unleashes a true madman, just escaped from a mental institution, who treats Christopher to a trick he will never forget…and his babysitter may never survive. Next time your doorbell rings, be prepared…because it’s Trick Or Treats!

My biggest issue with Trick Or Treats–and there are many–is that it’s a movie that doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a straight slasher flick, or a thinly veiled spoof of a slasher flick. I say this because there seems to be a kind of over-the-top quality to the acting with everybody that seems to indicate that no one was taking this anywhere near seriously. Which is fine, but there are moments where the “humor” almost achieves an Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes level of awfulness…only without the self-awareness.

I will say this: Trick Or Treats is something that benefited greatly with David Carradine all-too-brief appearance as the stepfather. Otherwise, we’re set upon by an inept script plagued with horrible dialogue an far too many clearly improvised scenes and pacing issues. As it stands, this is a movie that could have been much more enjoyable had they ditched the escaped mental patient angle and developed the story as a deranged child torturing his babysitter in kind of a Problem Child meets The Omen by way of Home Alone black comedy. But no, we’re given this badly rendered urban legend trope to waste everyone’s time with. I would much rather get my house egged than watch this again. Pass.

Movie Review: FINAL EXAM

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final examMotion Picture Laundry
1981
R

“Being brilliant has its drawbacks.”

Going through some of the lesser-known slasher flicks that came out in the wake of the success of Halloween and Friday The 13th, I came across this particular title on the streaming: 1981’s Final Exam. It seemed like an amusing way to kill 90 minutes or so. Most early 80s slashers were. So, while I was in the midst of recovering from my leg infection, I threw it on for kicks and giggles.

At Lanier College, the semester is almost over. Exam week is coming to a close when some upper classmen play a prank by staging a phony terrorist attack. But the next excitement in the school won’t be a prank. It’s something a lot more final than an exam. Students are falling prey to the knife-wielding maniac hell bent on making sure that school is out…forever!

First off, I’d hate to evoke the tired “the 80s were a different time” explanation, but there may be an issue with using a mass school shooting as a “prank” in one of the earliest scenes in the movie. Yeah, in this day and age, that came off rather…awkward and WTF than anything. Of course, everyone blows this off with a flippant “oh, those scamps”. I’m about as morbid and dark as you could know, and even I thought this was rather in bad taste. But, I digress…

So, when all is said and done, what we have with Final Exam is really a mediocre college campus comedy, with the whole “slasher” angle more incidental than anything. Outside of the opening scene of a young couple getting kababbed while making out in a secluded area, it takes nearly an hour to get to the actual stabby-stabby point of the flick. Until then, we have to sit through your stereotypical week college comedy tropes with some right annoying characters working off of a middling story. Once the “slasher” part of the movie actually starts, it’s a predictable by-the-numbers afaire that ends up forgettable once the end credits roll.

For what it is, though, Final Exam isn’t terrible, per se, and for a movie starring mostly stage actors, its low budget and the acting maybe has a bit too much cheese at times, but overall I didn’t regret watching this. Not that I plan on doing so again, but it’s worth a look-see.

Movie Review: HOUSE OF PURGATORY

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house of purgatoryTerror Films
2016
NR

‘Tis the Halloween Season, mein wundabar freaks. While I’m technically not doing a HALLOWEEN’ING series on the blog this year, I still like to watch movies that feature Halloween as the primary focus. Or at least set during the Greatest Season of the Year. And as such, I came across the movie House Of Purgatory, which was recently made available on DVD, but also for Prime streamin’, so I decided to turn off the lights, and see what kind of spooky shenanigans the stock characters would be getting into.

Sorry, maybe I’m unfairly judging the movie before actually watching it. Force of habit. Let’s take a look, then.

Four teenagers go looking for a legendary haunted house that gives you money back for every floor you can complete. Once finding it, they realize the house is much more terrifying than a normal Halloween attraction — the house knows each of their secrets and one by one uses them against the teens.

So, what we have with House Of Purgatory is your standard low budget teens-in-a-haunted-something-or-other movie that tries so hard to be an effective psychological mind trip of a horror movie that it’s rather adorable, really. The cast is your typical older 20-somethings playing the teenagers, the lot being forgettable personality types. There’s a bit at the beginning that had me thinking that this was going to be another lame Scream knock-off, but fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Things did pick up once the gang hit the titular haunted house, actually managing to get some good effects and shots in. However, the promise of delving into deep, dark secrets falls flat with the dismount, leaving this House Of Purgatory promising you Disney World’s Haunted Mansion attraction, but ending up being the second-rate haunted house setup the local civic group puts on at the town auditorium.

It really says something when the premise of your horror movie was already done way better with an old episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer*. House Of Purgatory is fun like a trip to a Spirit Of Halloween store is fun. Worth a look if you’re morbidly curious, or have nothing else to watch for the holiday.

[*=Season 4, Episode 4: “Fear Itself”…go watch that one instead]

Movie Review: BEFORE I DIE

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before I diParade Deck Films
2016
NR

Dammit.

Dammit dammit dammit dammit.

Look, I’m not going to mince words, here. It’s been a long time since I’ve been angry for having watched a movie. Indifference? Yes. Irritation? Yepper. Insulted? Plenty of times. Been reduced to madness-induced laughter? I call those “Thursdays”. But a movie that was so badly made that, once the end credits ran, all I can think of is to do violent things to the movie for having teased me with promises it never intended to keep. Or, at least write a very terse review of it for my blog.

I believe the last movie to do that was 2000’s Lost Souls. Well, that has been dethroned and replaced with this movie we’re discussing right now: Before I Die.

Before I Die happens to be one of those movies that are free streaming with my Prime account. You better believe I’m gonna get as much mileage out of that as I can. But, sometimes that means being duped into watching a movie like this because the movie poster art and descript blurb made it sound interesting. Here, let me reproduce the descript from Amazon, and tell me if this doesn’t sound the least bit tantalizing:

“Strange spiritual obsessions begin to unearth age-old secrets in a small Northwest town, leading a pastor to suspect that all might not be as idyllic as he first imagined and personal threats await anyone who dares confront them.

I mean, sure, it’s kind of a generic sounding horror premise, one that has been done since Hawthorne and Poe’s time, but at least it wasn’t another “teenagers trapped in a haunted asylum” or what have you movie these low-budget straight-to-video movie makers seem to favor.

What I got instead, was something that was ineptly made on all levels. The movie starts at a potluck gathering in a Congregational style church basement, and for 110 minutes of the movie’s nearly 2-hour run time, it maintains that level of excitement throughout. The movie just drags on and on and on, with a story that has less to do with horror, and more to do with a PBS drama, with some lame attempts at “oooh, spooky shenanigans afoot!” thrown in to remind us that we are, in fact, watching a horror movie. The acting is amateurish at best, and is so wooden you’ll be picking splinters out of your brain for days after. The effects are…well, there are no effects, really. The plot is so meandering and at times confusing that the big “twist” reveal seems more of an afterthought tacked on.

Watching Before I Die did the impossible: it made m want to watch the television show 7th Heaven for some excitement. To say that I was disappointed with this movie is a gross understatement. Avoid this movie like the festering blob of undigested guacamole dip that it is.

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