By embracing the story within the story, series creator and writer/director Stephen Cognetti presents the most satisfying chapter in the Abbadon Hotel Saga...
In the latest (and most likely, last) installment of Hell House, the owner of Wynn Media Group has purchased the Abbadon hotel and moved his immersive theater production "Insomnia" there. Insomnia is a retelling of the story of Faust, the tale of a man caught in a deal between God and the Devil. Using this as a narrative device not only helps give context to the previous two films in the series, it ushers in a new understanding of the overall message of the trilogy.
“Seems like one of those silly found footage films, and those aren’t my thing.” This line is said towards the beginning of the film. Though the audience knows that all the Hell House LLC movies fall into that category, each film steps above and beyond the classification and finds new ways to present a story in its medium. In terms of found footage films, Lake of Fire does not reinvent the wheel but it does make a compelling case that this medium is still relevant to the horror genre. The story works best when it is incorporating news footage and social media posts into the same edited style as the previous two films.
That is not to say it doesn't suffer from the repetitive format. The climax of the film is a bit rushed and not as powerful as it could be. The post credit scene tries to add a bit of context to what happened but falls short as well. It's fair to say that overuse of footage from the previous films also gets a bit waning but, for the most part, it is used in ways that enhance the story.
The cast in Lake of Fire is by far the best assembled in the trilogy, adding a layer of gravitas the previous films were lacking. Two actors' performances stick out in particular: Elizabeth Vermilyea and Gabriel Chytry.
Elizabeth Vermilyea plays Vanessa Shepard, the new host of Morning Mysteries. Vanessa carries a lot of the weight of the film and is the viewer's guide more than most of the other characters. She plays the role of new tv anchor with aplomb and gives a very realistic and nuanced performance.
Gabriel Chytry plays the elusive and mysterious Russell Wynn. Gabriel is given a lot of moments where other actors may have chewed the scenery but his every action, word, and motive is performed with sharp intention. This makes the rushed ending a bit anticlimactic but viewers will want to go back time and time again to study his cadence and phrasing.
The limited time Vanessa and Russell share onscreen should be used in classrooms as an example of how to tell a story through body language and sparse dialogue. The whole cast excels at this, however I think the script tends to give these two a bit more time to breathe fully-fleshed characters to life.
Lake Of Fire is, by far, the most fun and impressive film in the series. It provides plenty of scares and generous room for reflection afterwards - which is always the mark of a great film. This is one of the few times that a sequel feels not only warranted but necessary. It is a must watch for fans of the series and fans of Found Footage films in general. It's also a great film for the literary nerd.
Hell House LLC 3: Lake of Fire debuts exclusively on Shudder 9/19/19.
By Justin Drabek