Beware The Mannequins (Hell House LLC, 2015)

Hell_House_LLC_PosterNot to be confused with the 2001 documentary Hell House (about a “Hell House” meant to scare people into accepting Jesus), Hell House LLC is a found footage film that follows filmmakers who are investigating horrifying tragedy that left fifteen dead in a Halloween Haunted House tour.  There was only one survivor of the crew and she is now providing the documentarians with access.

As the footage of the haunted house crew progresses, there are incidents where they hear music playing on a piano, they see things move, and typical creepy events.  Each incident seems to get more and more frightening.  It all starts to escalate, leading up to the horror of that Halloween night.

Hell House LLC is a very well done found footage film.  It can be downright unnerving at times, with real jumps and scares.  It uses the cliches like the scary clown to lull the viewer, but then surprise you by just how creepy it all is.  Admittedly, not sure I would have held out as long as they did with the creepy scares, but Hell House LLC is a strong horror film.

 

They Built More Houses (The Houses October Built 2, 2017)

Houses_October_Built_2_PosterThe first film was a found footage horror film about filmmakers exploring “extreme” Halloween Haunts.  They stumble upon some scary folks and the film ended cryptically with the suggestion all were dead.

The sequel explains this away as they were saved due to people calling the police while watching a live feed.  A year later, the film makers are trying to make money promoting horror haunts, but everybody wants the girl from the video feed, Brandy, to appear.  But Brandy wants nothing to do with it.  So, we spend a ridiculously long chunk of the film with the guys going to random funhouses and giving their reviews.  They keep getting recommendations to find Hellbent.

They finally convince Brandy to join them and then it all goes freaky and twist after twist occurs.  And frankly?  It is annoying.  The majority of the film is very boring.  There is a sequence dedicated running a marathon.  We get lots of random drone footage.  Can we stop with the drone footage in found footage films? Please?

The constant twists towards the end gets obnoxious…and frankly ripped off the end of Nerve (which probably ripped off another film…).  This was an unnecessary sequel that simply brings nothing interesting or new to the original film.

Found Footage of the Dead (Diary of the Dead, 2007)

diary_of_the_dead_posterEarlier I commented on how the Dead movies are kind of set in an “ever present now”.  Diary of the Dead kind of flips that on its head.  Diary of the dead is a found footage approach to Romero’s Dead World.  All told through footage from the cast of characters camera, it explores the early days of the zombie outbreak.  It jumps to the beginning, and the beginning is now.

The film starts out very strongly.  A young woman explains that this movie is compiled both from her boyfriend’s footage and footage from the internet.  The voiceover is spoken as we watch a news report being conducted in front of a crime scene.  As bodies are being loaded into an ambulance, the bodies begin to attack the paramedics.  It is a very effective scene followed by news shots covering the riots and looting.  We then move to a college film crew making a horror movie.  There is an argument regarding whether a monster is supposed to be slow moving or not (which becomes echoed in a far later scene).

The film follows the group as they travel in an RV to make their way to one of the film crew’s homes (he lives in a remote mansion).  They meet survivalists, farmers and National Guardsmen as they work towards their final destination.

One of the biggest changes to the traditional Romero formula is that the zombies in this film are much faster. They leap on people, jump out from behind doors and tackle people.  They are not as fast as Zak Snyder’s zombies from his Dawn of the Dead remake, but still, they are faster than his earlier films.  After a while, the film kind of meanders.  But it picks back up when they reach the mansion and everything gets even worse. The characters also get a bit frustrating, behaving in some questionable ways.  At one point, one guy films one of his friends being stalked by a zombie and really does not lift a finger to help her.

Overall, this is a decent film.  It is interesting that it turns it’s sympathies back towards humans, but it also mirrors the darkness of the original towards the end when we get scenes that are similar to the final moments of the original Night of the Living Dead, asking pretty much the same questions about humanity.

It helps that it is presented as a finished work rather than just a series of footage strung together.  This allows for there to be a stronger narrative structure.  While no competition for the original three films, this is an overall interesting entry.

It’s a Bad Disease (Afflicted, 2014)

AfflictedDerek Lee & Clif Prowse wrote and directed in this film where they play two friends named Derek and Clif.  They are buddies who are going to travel the world and blog about it, posting regular videos and taking suggestions from the blog readers.

Derek has personal reasons for going on this trip beyond it being fun, he is trying to live his life with gusto as he looks to an uncertain future due to a medical condition.  This is a found footage film, using a variety of cameras that give a variety of views, such as first person perspective and so on.  And the film starts off as many films of this type do, the guys are having fun, talking, laughing, hitting on girls.  And for Derek that is where it all goes wrong.  He goes back to his hotel room with a beautiful french woman.  His friends show up shortly and find him lying in bed, beaten, bleeding and alone.  The woman is gone, but she seems to have left her clothes behind.

What follows is a series of events where Derek seems to be getting sicker and sicker…he sleeps all day and cannot keep down his food.  Then one afternoon, while visiting an Italian vineyard, his skin starts to blister until he gets out of the sun.  He finds he is getting stronger and faster.  While that part excites them at first, when they start putting it together, Clif starts getting more concerned.  It becomes real apparent that the strange disease is…well, Derek is a vampire.

I really was engaged by the film.  The leads are likeable.  Derek Lee is very convincing in his motions and facial contortions that are featured in the darker stages of the vampiric transformation.  The camera work is fast and jumps a lot, but without making it confusing as to what is going on.

afflicted_screenThe film hits a point where it feels like we are watching the final scene…and the film suddenly swerves into the revenge action thriller territory.  Luckily, it does work.  In a lot of ways, I actually found myself thinking back to how much I enjoyed the first two [REC] films.

Lee and Prowse have crafted an effective thriller with Afflicted.  While it does not cover new ground (there is nothing added to their take on vampires) they tell the story effectively and the special effects and camera work serve each other very well.  The makeup, when combined with Derek Lee’s physical contortions, has real impact on the viewer.  This film has me curious to check out the various shorts Lee and Prowse have collaborated on.  This is a pretty impressive full length debut.  I look forward to seeing what they do next.

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