Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire (2019) – Stephen Cognetti

Found footage can be hit or miss. To attempt a trilogy what works solely with that sub-genre is pretty ambitious, and I think, for the most part, writer/director Stephen Cognetti pulls it off. And if you watch all three films in close succession, as I have, they flow a lot better, and he wraps everything up (perhaps not completely satisfactorily) in this third film.

I will say this, for the most part, the acting is a lot better than some of the rough performances in the second film, and we’re spared a monologuing villain spirit for the most part.

The seeds that were planted throughout the series relating to the character of Russell Wynn (Gabriel Chytry) all pay off, as we learn that this wealthy entrepreneur has bought the haunted Abaddon hotel, and collected all the tapes and information relating to it.

He shows up this story, revamping the Abaddon as a backdrop for his interpretation of Faust, called Insomnia, which will be performed as the audience wanders through the structure. And, of course, it’s all going to be recorded as it happens, from wardrobe, to sets, rehearsals to opening night. This time, yet another young reporter, Vanessa (Elizabeth Vermilyea) following nervously in the steps of the characters in the second film.

As the cast and crew of Insomnia settle in, things, encounters and more begin to plague everyone, and they seem to be ramping up as opening night draws closer. And what are Wynn’s motivations?

I’m divided on this one. I feel you can only back to the well so many times with the same kind of story, and this is the third time Cognetti’s done it, but he also expands on the mythology each time he does, so there’s that.

And while some of the scares are expected and work, the clown, the reappearance of characters from the first film, there are a few, especially when things start to go sideways that just don’t pop like they should.

And you can only do so much with hand held cameras and go-pros. That being said, the lazy susan is fun.

I do like how Cognetti works with what he’s got, and makes use of the location, callbacks, and his vast cast of actors to tell his story. And it is his story, he kept control over his three films, and told the story he wanted to tell, and how he wanted to. So what if it doesn’t appeal to everyone? So what if the first film is the strongest?

That doesn’t mean the trilogy isn’t enjoyable. It’s actually a lot of fun. And it also shows that the found footage sub-genre is alive and well.

Finally, as I leave this trilogy behind I wanted to say how much I really enjoyed Theodore Bouloukos’ recurring performance as the local expert.

If found footage is your thing, this trilogy is a bit of a must.

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