Shudder

Wicked Wednesday: Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (2018)

My parents were visiting Britain these past couple weeks. The last of which they stayed with me in my tiny London flat. I love my parents, but it can be difficult to find things that all of us can enjoy. Throw my husband into the mix, and it’s even more complicated.

Usually any decision making is left to me. I’m very bad at making decisions. But it must be the Halloween spirit in the air because everyone actually encouraged me to pick out horror movies.

Both of my parents are a bit…prudish (conservative?), so it’s always a tricky affair. But when I saw Hell House LLC calling to me, I thought it was time for a rewatch. It scared me enough the first time around, surely it would creep everyone else out a tiny bit.

And it was interesting seeing this movie again with sets of fresh eyes in the room. I picked up on many of the same thing as the first time: it’s a subtle build up with a slightly-confusing pay-off in the end. My family, on the other hand, got to enjoy it for the first time. My mom had to physically leave the room and didn’t come back until the ending.

So inspired by the rewatch, I decided it was time to tackle the sequel: Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel. This 2018 movie has been on my to-watch list for a long time, but had purposefully avoided it due to the mostly-negative reviews of it.

The Abaddon Hotel picks up a few years after the original events of the film. Since the release of the documentary, the interest in the Abaddon Hotel grew. But of course, with all the idiots heading into the house for dares – none came back out alive.

Enter straight-laced “investigative journalist” Jessica Fox. For some reason, despite the number of people who have disappeared, she’s determined to get into the hotel and explore things for herself.

The others dragged into her horrible plan are her fellow staff members Molly and David, and original Hell House documentary maker Mitchell (not actually in the first movie). Mitchell was a part of Diane’s team. Diane had disappeared after her interview with “Sara”, and Mitchell is rather determined to solve the mystery. Also along with them is a medium and his camera man. But don’t even bother with them, they die right away.

Much of the movie switches between several different medias: the shaky footage of Jessica’s pals inside the hotel, an TV interview of three guests included Mitchell and an idiotic politician, and the different footage of all the missing boys.

It’s rather distracting, actually. As it’s difficult to understand why we care about any of these people. The initial scenes are about a man named Jackson who went missing after breaking into the hotel. We get to see an interview with his mother that’s actually very compelling. But…it just ends there. It doesn’t matter. And that sort of sucks.

The movie’s decision not to focus on one singular story makes for a very incoherent plot. It’s as shaky as most of the camera work. Glancing back at my notes, I stopped writing after the first 15 minutes or so after realising nothing I was watching actually mattered.

Unlike the original Hell House, much of its sequel has us watching people running around scared. Do you want people running around a haunted house? Great. Then you get it for at least 50% of this movie. The climax of Hell House LLC was great because it spend most of its time building up, and the pay off was (mostly) great because of it. Say what you will about the ending.

In The Abaddon Hotel, we’re immediately shown not-so-subtle images of the cloaked figures. It’s the same scared as the first movie, but they happen straight off the bat. I can see where the idea was to terrify right away, but mostly comes across as lazy and…boring.

Hell House LLC II fails to comply with the idea that less is more. We learn too much about Hell House, which makes it less scary in many ways. If there was a need to fill in the gaps, I think a prequel would have been more interesting. The creation of “the story” is better than over-explaining something in retrospect. Seeing the answers to the first movie was, well, rather disappointing (namely: the walls).

We also learn too much about Alex, the founder of Hell House. Where his story line went was just stupid. It actually takes away from what made the first movie good. Alex apparently signed some deal with Andrew Tully, the hotel owner and cult leader who had hung himself decades earlier. I liked Alex as a character in the first movie because he was just a no-nonsense asshole. Giving him a paranormal element took away from the realism of the first movie.

There’s something that many found-footage sequels have in common: they forget to make likeable characters the second time around. We like certain found footage movies because of the believable cast. Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield. You remember the people and they look like us, thus making the world feel rounder as a whole. Alex was totally ruined for me. The new batch of characters were not interesting. So when they died, it felt more like a shrug.

In this sequel, the acting is…bad. Pretty damn bad. Straight off the bat, the first scene with Molly and Jessica is wooden and cringe-y. It immediately takes you out of a “this is real” mindset and immediately reminds you that this is all fake. And in the world of found footage, that’s a pretty big crime to commit.

As they say, “lightning never strikes the same place twice.” And that, unfortunately, is very true for Hell House. There are many familiar scares here, but they just don’t work the second time around.

Wicked Wednesday: Slaughter High (1986)

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I’ve been waiting to watch Slaughter High for ages (holding out to buy the Arrow DVD release), but I was giddy and gleeful when I saw that the film was a new release on Shudder. But to say the least, I’m pretty chuffed that I didn’t buy the DVD – once on streaming is plenty.

Slaughter High is essentially The Toxic Avenger but a lot less clever. Marty is the school nerd (or if you will, Marvin at the Tromaville Heath Club). As an easy prey, Marty falls victim to a group of fellow students’ April Fools’ Day prank. Carol (played by a not teen-aged Caroline Munro) is Marty’s dream girl. She easily lures him into the girls’ locker room where she coaxes him to undress in promise of having sex.

As Marty undresses in one of the stalls, Carol lets in her group of friends, who stand at the ready with a well-made prank for poor Marty to fall victim to. After the curtain is pulled pack, Marty is face-to-face with a camera. But the kids are caught by their coach and given detention. Angry at being caught being, well, total assholes, they plot their revenge against Marty.

While most of the students are working out, two of them find Marty and give him a joint laced with something not-so-usual. They chuckle and head off to the gym. Meanwhile, Marty smokes the joint while he’s alone in the chemistry lab (smart). He places a bottle of acid onto the top of a precariously-built shelf and runs to the toilets to vomit. Asshole captain Skip hears Marty sick and goes to the lab to rig Marty’s experiment.

After Marty returns, the solution catches fire – and do does Marty. The students hear the explosion and all they can do is watch while Marty suffers severe burns that disfigure him.

Some unannounced years in the future, Carol wakes up from a nightmare of that April Fools’. Now a successful-ish actress, she plans to join her old gang from school at a reunion. Skip is now a pretty successful… whatever, driving a constantly breaking-down Volkswagen and waiting for his friends to help him out of his problems.

At the school, the group is reunited but don’t seem rather aware that no one else has showed up and that their school as since long been abandoned. Despite a couple of the women having the great idea to leave, they all run into the school when a storm begins.

Though they still aren’t too freaked out, even when they find an entire room done up for a reunion: only their pictures are hung up, only their’s and Marty’s lockers are there. Not suspicious? Fine. Just get high instead.

During the celebrations, they’re discovered by the caretaker, who is the first of the victims knocked off by someone in a jester mask like the one wore during the prank against Marty. Things quickly unravel from there. The first reunion-goer dies by toxic chemical beer (that doesn’t go through cans!) – then the next one completely melts in a bath.

And for some reason no one leaves. Someone eventually sneaks out via a window on one of the upper stories. I mean, someone even arrives later through an open door. Did they check every door? Do they think all eight or however many there were to begin with was not enough to distract one killer?

Alas, they are mostly sitting ducks while they get picked off. Though Joe tells them that he remembers seeing a tractor. Somehow this tractor is their ticket out of there. But Joe gets grated to death by the tractor’s blade while his wife has sex with his best friend upstairs (but don’t worry, they get electrocuted in the bed).

Finally, the remaining three are Skip, Carol and Nancy. Nancy isn’t special, and she knows it. She blames them for what happens to Marty, and says that’s the only reason why their friends were murdered. Though she certainly passes a lot of the blame – apparently Nancy had to have been mute or something or she was suffering from a backbone injury.

But suddenly, Skip gets the idea that Marty will stop his rampage at noon. Apparently this “April Fools’ ends at noon” saying is an actual thing, though it left me baffled until I looked it up online. But yeah. Okay. Another leap of faith here.

After Skip comes to his revelation, he tells the women that they need to stay awake until noon. They all immediately fall asleep. Skip gets up in the morning looking for trouble and is immediately grabbed and hung (though with the worst rig ever – as he eventually falls to safety).

When Nancy and Carol wake up, they look around for Skip and realise that all of their friends’ bodies have been cleaned away. Nancy begins to get jittery. She gets even worse when the two find a room that is playing back the tape of their prank. They find Marty’s year book and Nancy realises that her picture is crossed off like the rest of the victims.

Instead of keeping calm, Nancy runs off and falls into a cesspit. She can’t manage to pull herself out, and is kicked back in by the Jester. Though don’t worry, there’s a completely visible ledge there that I’m sure she’ll notice.

All alone, Carol begins to be hunted by the killer. While hiding in the backstage area, she accidentally axes Skip in the face. Sorry Skip. But despite it being after noon, Marty doesn’t give up. Carol eventually runs and hides inside the girls’ locker room because Carol really likes everything to come full circle before she dies. Marty impales her with a javeline.

But the ending. Please.

Marty begins seeing visions of his victims, who now are extras in a “Thriller” music video. Then he wakes up – covered in bandages and in a mental hospital. When one of the doctors goes to check on Marty, the nurse turns around and reveals MARTY! He stabs the doctor in the eye and says he will get his revenge. And… that’s it?

Nothing like a dream-within-a-dream cop-out. It’s so confusing and unnecessary, that it becomes rather head-scratching.

So Slaughter High didn’t really live up to my hopes, but it was certainly different and in many ways quiet fun. I enjoyed there being an older cast in comparison to the typical demographic of slashers. It’s filled with quirks that were plenty of fun to watch (or listen to – those awful American accents!).

The jester mask was an excellent tough. It made for wonderful silhouettes. But please, why didn’t we explain why the fuck a student even had one of these? Is this an April Fools’ thing? Why has a 1986 slasher left me with SO many questions?

Boy. January has made me cynical.
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