Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor puts new spin on the Abaddon legend

Hell House LLC Origins - Courtesy Shudder
Hell House LLC Origins - Courtesy Shudder /

At some point in 2016, I discovered the found footage horror film Hell House LLC on Amazon Prime. I had never heard of it, I was just browsing through the free to watch horror selections and was startled by the high ratings of this low budget independent movie, which didn’t even feature any known actors.

I was blown away by the time Hell House LLC ended, delighted to have found such a great little film. Shortly afterwards, I joined some horror groups on social media, and discovered that a lot of people had a lot of love for Stephen Cognetti’s masterpiece. Cognetti both wrote and directed Hell House LLC, along with the sequels and the new prequel, which just started streaming on Shudder.

The premise of the first film was simple: Five friends operate a successful seasonal haunted house attraction called Hell House, which has gone on for several years. For the first time, the Halloween attraction is set up outside of New York City, in the abandoned Abaddon Hotel.

As the story goes, on opening night, disaster struck and 15 people (including most of the Hell House crew) were killed. Now a film crew is mounting an investigative documentary about the event, interviewing survivors, people familiar with the story, and the sole surviving crew member Sara.

Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor
Hell House LLC Origins – Courtesy Shudder /

The POV flips back and forth between the documentary and the footage that was recorded by the Hell House team, and we learn the entire terrifying story…complete with the scariest clowns I have ever seen.

Two years after the release of the first film, Cognetti released Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel, followed by Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire. With Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor, the story goes in a different direction, and for the first time, the action is not set at the Abaddon.

Instead, we are treated to a pseudo-documentary that dives into the story of the doomed Carmichael family, all of whom were murdered in their mansion. Well, almost all of them – one daughter was killed in a car accident, and two of the family members disappeared, never to be seen again. It’s presumed that one of them (possibly both) committed the murders.

Years later, filmmaker Margot gets permission to film a true crime doc inside the manor, bringing along her girlfriend Rebecca and brother Chase as the only other crew members. Cognetti did a brilliant job of presenting a new story, while also cleverly interweaving the Abaddon Hotel lore into it.

We are told at the beginning of the movie that the three did not survive, and as with nearly every found footage horror film, we watch the footage they recorded during their ill-fated stay at the mansion.

How does Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor hold up?

As much as I love all of the films in the franchise, the first has always been the best (in my opinion). But, Carmichael Manor is surprisingly strong, and I would place it a close second. The story is well-constructed, the acting is decent, and those damned clowns are back to creep us all out once again.

I really don’t want to give away too much of the plot, it’s better to watch it yourself. Do you have to have seen the other three films to understand this one? Absolutely not…but it will enrich your experience if you do. There are a lot of clever homages and easter eggs, and the simple truth is that the first three are good flicks.

All four HHLLC films can currently be seen on Shudder, including the director’s cut of the first one. Enjoy!