Though Shudder’s Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor adopts a new location, it rehashes franchise ideas and struggles to maintain its own identity.
Four years after 2019’s Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire, writer and director Stephen Cognetti returns with Shudder’s Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor. Diverging from its predecessors, this fourth installment in the franchise marks a departure from the familiarly eerie Abaddon Hotel setting, bringing a fresh origin story within the Hell House universe. As a devoted fan of the original 2015 film Hell House LLC, an underrated found-footage horror gem of the ’10s, I hoped a new location and storyline would revitalize the franchise after two disappointing sequels that lost some of the original’s magic, rehashing familiar plotlines and predictable scares.
Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor weaves its narrative into the sinister history of the Abaddon Hotel while expanding on the origins of its back story. Margot, played by Bridget Rose Perrotta, is a savvy internet sleuth driven by unraveling cold cases. Among her investigations, she stumbles across an unsettling enigma, the mystery of The Carmichael Manor. The house, which the Carmichael family owned in the 1980s, became the setting of gruesome murders. Two family members were brutally killed in their beds, while the other two, absent from the crime scene, vanished without a trace.
In the style reminiscent of the usual Hell House franchise plot setup, Margot travels to the manor with her girlfriend Rebecca (Destiny Leilani Brown), and the pair are later joined by Margot’s brother Chase (James Liddell). The trio stays in the house for four nights to uncover what happened to the family all those years ago, and as you might have guessed, they’ve got some company.
The latest film focuses on the ominous clowns that now inhabit The Carmichael Manor and have become a recurring franchise staple. While the newest installment deserves credit for its spooky ambience within the house, thanks to its long, dark hallways and the haunting howl of the wind against the door come nightfall, the film loses momentum quickly. Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor does provide a few creepy moments and takes a more subtle approach to scares, but ultimately, the film follows the same format as previous installments in the franchise. In addition, much of the story’s uncovered history that links to the Abaddon Hotel feels unnecessary and disinteresting.
When introduced in Hell House LLC, the clowns were alluring as the lack of context behind their presence made them terrifying. However, the franchise now has four features and utilizes them similarly within each film, minimizing the impact of each scare. The result is a predictive narrative that is less unique and creates a detachment from the characters presented, making viewers indifferent to their fate. Margot, Rebecca, and Chase are likable enough. Still, they are generic, and nothing makes them stand out among other characters in the universe of the same caliber.
Furthermore, Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor struggles to hold its own identity. Though an origin story that introduces a family that has never been explored in previous films, the fourth installment also expands on events that occurred decades before the Abbadon Hotel tragedy. The feature relies heavily on connecting the Abaddon Hotel and The Carmichael Manor while moving further away from the mystery that made the original film so intriguing in the first place. Many of the dots that are connected to align the history of the two locations feel illogical and a convenient way to move the plot forward, opposed to fitting seamlessly together.
Despite my anticipation for Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor, which I hoped would deliver a new and exciting franchise entry for fans to sink their teeth into, the fourth installment is a repeat of previous ideas and falls short of its potential. My deep appreciation for Hell House LLC and Cognetti’s inventive concepts on a minimal budget will always be something I respect. However, it also leads me to believe that this universe may have made more of an impact had it remained a standalone film.
Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor will be streaming on Shudder from October 30, 2023.