HELL HOUSE LLC ORIGINS: THE CARMICHAEL MANOR (2023)
Release Date: 10/30/23 [Shudder]
Genre: Horror. Mystery.
"A group of cold case investigators stay at the Carmichael Manor. After four nights, the group was never heard from again. What is discovered on their footage is even more disturbing than anything found on the Hell House tapes."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
As someone who hasn’t seen any of the Hell House LLC series, there was a sense of relief in knowing that I could watch this latest feature – The Carmichael Manor – having no previous experience with the franchise itself. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the other films collectively, but if this is any indication it would seem I’m not missing out.
A prequel – so as an uninitiated viewer I’m unaware which characters are something of a throughline to the series at large – The Carmichael Manor splits its time between two altering timelines; one in the 1980s, the other more present day, but both taking place within the titular dwelling where, as to be expected, horrific actions take place.
Haunted homes and the found footage subsect of the horror genre are two ingredients I can happily gel with, so Carmichael Manor implementing both means Stephen Cognetti’s film leads with a sense of potential fun. Throw in some highly unsettling clowns, and you have the makings of, at the very least, a serviceable scarer that shouldn’t need to try too hard to evoke a certain genre-appropriate reaction.
But there I was, waiting to be scared.
I’m not sure how you fail to make the clown creations here tepid, but not once did I find their mysterious presence and stoic stance unnerving. To the characters it’s naturally terrifying, and if it was happening to me it would be beyond terrifying, but Cognetti isn’t able to project that fear to us as an audience; which seems all the more disappointing given it’s aiming for the found footage (aka “real”) angle.
Lack of scares aside – it also doesn’t help that the frame itself is held for too long – it's the characters here that truly wear out any sense of fun that should be had in a group of paranormal investigators staying in the very manor where a family mysteriously died decades prior. Some of them are smart (they hear a noise or see something suspicious and they suggest leaving), but it’s the main driver of the group (Bridget Rose Perrotta as the inquisitive Margot) that tests all patience and makes Carmichael Manor a far more insufferable experience.
Perrotta as a performer is at the mercy of Cognetti’s script and direction, so they can’t take all the blame, but Margot never comes off as if she’s a good person. She’s essentially forcing her friends to stay at the site of a murder mansion, she acts a bit bratty whenever they oppose her views, and she hones an energy that, I assume, is supposed to come off as quirky and comedic, yet never comes off as organic. She tests your patience, and such a character makes it difficult to barrack for; the film informing us that this found footage is the last known of Margot’s existence means we also aren’t that invested in seeing what happened to her.
That being said, even if the lead character wasn’t such a grating presence, Carmichael Manor would still prove an underwhelming experience as the scares are severely lacking, and the rinse-repeat cycle of its structure means the film undoes any of its terror potential.
Maybe it’s on me for not being familiar with the series, but even if I had the seen the other entrants, I don’t think my opinion would change on Carmichael Manor’s lack of well executed scares or its choice of lead character. Of all the places I could choose to check into this Halloween season, I can assure Carmichael Manor won’t be one of them.