It’s 1975, and an investigator enters a house, filming while he walks through the murder scene. The murders were committed by a cult calling themselves “3rd Eye”.
This horror short, made by the “Midnight Video” team, is presented as a “crime scene footage”, and it was actually made during quarantine. Much like several of their other horror shorts (like for example Mikus and Your Date is Here), it’s simple, yet very effective.
Tom Riley has just bought a house at a price that is way below market value. With intentions of “flipping” it (a term for buying a house and selling it later for a profit) he goes through the house while filming the entire process with his iPhone. After residing in the house for a short while, however, he notices strange happenings, and decides to set up a bunch of surveillance cameras both inside and outside. At first he’s convinced that people are breaking into the house…but soon, he realizes that he might be dealing with something paranormal.
“Bad Ben” is an odd little horror film. With “found footage” horror movies being all over the place these days, it feels like everyone with a camera and some video-editing software can make their own addition to the genre. While the majority of these movies have a very limited cast and budget, they still manage to (sometimes) turn out as quite decent films. And it kind of feels like Nigel Bach once joined in a discussion about this topic, simply said “Hold my beer”, and went and made a found-footage movie in his own home with himself being the only person involved. Yes, you read that right. This is a 1-man movie. Filmed with an iPhone and the rest consisting of security camera “footage”, with a budget of only $300.
Now, an idea like this sounds like the perfect recipe for a disaster of a movie, which could only be appreciated by close friends and family. But to our surprise, we found that it’s actually quite decently made for what it is. And since nearly every single found footage horror movie includes a cast with teens/young people, it was actually a bit refreshing to see a grumpy, middle-aged man who is more pissed off at the goings-on than afraid of it. The movie does have a tone of humor in it, and it manages to keep you captivated throughout the protagonist’s exploration and experiences. It is also kinda fascinating and somewhat inspiring that the entire movie was made as a one-man-show, and part of the entertainment value comes from keeping this in mind.
“Bad Ben” is not a horror movie that will be appreciated by everyone, but for those of us that watch horror movies on a regular basis and has trudged through a ton of various indie horror, it’s easy to see why Nigel Bach’s “Bad Ben” found a fan base. “Bad Ben” has turned into a series of a total of 7 movies (so far).
We watched this movie on streaming at Amazon’s “Prime Video” (one of the few streaming sites that has a nice selection of horror movies for us Norwegians…as compared to for example Netflix, where the “selection” for non-US customers is so limited that it sucks sweaty donkey balls).
We are introduced to the YouTube channel Prankstaz.tv, run by two mildly sociopathic douchebags who make prankster-videos where they break into a morgue (among other things) and takes a selfie with one of the cadavers. And all just to see those precious views on YouTube. Reminds me of a certain guy with a similar channel who went to Suicide Forest in Japan in late 2017, to film a fresh corpse hanging from a tree and laugh at it and mock it afterwards. So, here we get a satirical glimpse at how toxic and obnoxious the YouTube prankster-community can be, and how far they are willing to push the shock factor to get the desired attention and views.
However, the next project by The Prankstaz is to spend a night in the closed and abandoned Beeliz Heilstätten (or Beeliz Sanatorium), outside of Berlin, which was used during the Nazi era. The sanatorium is supposed to be haunted by a woman, or simply “patient 106”. She killed herself by slitting her wrists in a bathtub after she got pregnant with one of the doctors, and it’s said that she cursed the place. They bring some other YouTubers along with them: a local historian to creep us out with the sanatorium’s dark past, and of course a medium. After they’ve installed static cams in every corner and start to settle in for the night, it doesn’t take long until some spooky shit starts to happen. Of course.
The location is also based on the real sanatorium, Beelitz Heilstätten, where the Führer himself was treated for a leg wound in 1918. So yeah, this place goes way back, and was in its time the biggest building of this kind. But the place is most known for the murders by serial killer Wolfgang Schmidt, who allegedly killed five women on this location in the 80’s. A homeless man also hung himself in the sanatorium after it got closed down and abandoned in the early 90’s. A scene from “The Pianist” (2002) was shot here, and Rammstein used the location for the music video “Mein Herz Brennt”. In “Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten” they used Heilstätte Grabowsee as the location, another huge abandoned sanatorium outside of Berlin. And yes, “Grave Encounters” (2011) comes to mind, and they share much of the same qualities, I would say. A huge, dusty, decayed, broken down mental facility with narrow corridors that just seem to go into obscurity, great sound design, thick atmosphere, pretty much the ingredients you need to make a great found footage horror.
And then there’s a twist, which you will probably see a mile away, but unfortunately was very poorly executed. But besides of that, “Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten” is a pretty solid found footage horror that deserves a watch.
Director: Michael David Pate Country & year: Germany, 2018 Actors: Nilam Farooq, Farina Flebbe, Sonja Gerhardt, Maxine Kazis, Lisa-Marie Koroll, Emilio Sakraya, Tim Oliver Schultz, Davis Schulz, Timmi Trinks IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7214470/
“Hell House LLC” starts with some news-clips where we learn that an abandoned hotel, which has been transformed into a haunted house tour in a small town outside New York, ended in disaster on 8th October 2009. Several people were killed and injured, and nobody knows what really happened, but the police vaguely blames the outburst on a major malfunction. With the suspicion that the police are holding back some info from the public, it creates conspiracy theories among some local journalists who starts their own investigation. They get in contact with one of Hell House’s crew members, Sarah, who gives them all the raw footage that documents the whole process which spans from August 23rd to October 8th. When she is asked why she hasn’t turned this over to the police, she simply says “you’ll see”. Alright, so let’s take a look.
We get introduced to these four crew members who just arrives at Hotel Abaddon and starts to explore its environments and settles in, and decides to stay for the night. The days go by, and they’re installing the electricity, making the effects and props ready, and everything seems to go as planned, until weird shit starts to happen. Doors are opening and closing by themselves, and from one of the static cams we see a glimpse of an obscure person walking around wearing something that looks like a grim reaper-cape. Boo. When they start hiring local actors to the attraction, one of them reveals that the hotel has a dark past and the rumors are saying that the previous owner hanged himself in the hotel’s dining room. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the crew hears more unsettling stories based in the hotel’s past, and even satanic rituals are mentioned. And just to top that, the hotel is named after a demon from The Book of Revelation known as The Angel of Death. The name Abaddon, which also means ruin, death, desolation, and destruction. Yay. Nothing bad could ever happen here, so just enjoy your stay, and if you survive, please give us a positive review at Yelp…
Haunted house attractions are clearly a huge business in USA, where 35 million people around the states are visiting them in October each year to get a great scare (hey, that rhymed). And of course, this concept also makes great set-up for a horror-movie or two. Besides of this we have “The Houses that October Built” which is a more like a half-documentary done in Borat-style where they travel from different states to explore and get a unique insight to the community. Even though Hell House LLC was actually shot in a real haunted house attraction called Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel, it was only used as location with the fictitious title Abaddon Hotel.
It’s not uncommon to put on a found footage horror and expect the worst. How many films like this haven’t been spewed out like cheap burgers to be either total lackluster or forgotten trash, in the hopes of becoming the next Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity? But sometimes, if you really dig in the found footage-jungle, there’s some gold to find. And what a pleasant surprise Hell House LLC was. Writer and director Stephen Cognetti does a pretty steady job combining the documentary and found footage-style, while the horror itself relies mostly on the psychological and the atmosphere. The hotel’s dark backstory and lore are also intriguing and is spicing up the mood, not to mention the creepy decorations hanging around that adds to the atmosphere. This is overall a very well made horror flick with great acting, and a tension that builds up to the finale.”Hell House LLC” is probably on the same level as “Grave Encounters” (2011), another found footage film that really knew how to use the format.
The Sequel “Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel” was released on the streaming service shudder.com. It’s also available from other sources, but since we live in Norway we haven’t actually found any place where we can watch it (yet) as Shudder is not available here, and the other sources are region locked and mostly only available in USA or UK. Bummer. As we currently speak, the third installment is being filmed, called “Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire”. So when comes the Hell House Trilogy Box-Set? We just have to wait and see, I guess…we currently own “Hell House LLC” on dvd, and so far it looks like the only other option for us to check out the other movies is to wait (and hope for) a dvd release when the third film is finished.
Director: Stephen Cognetti Country & year: USA, 2015 Actors: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Natalie Gee, Jared Hacker, Phil Hess, Ryan Jennifer Jones, Lauren A. Kennedy, Jeb Kreager, Miranda Robbins, Adam Schneider, Kristin Michelle Taylor IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4267026/
Grave Encounters is a “found footage” horror movie about a reality TV series where three paranormal investigators visists historic haunted landmarks in the United States, like we’ve seen in “Ghost Hunters”, “Ghost Adventures” and numerous more of these shows that’s exploded in the recent ten years. But “Grave Encounters” was ahead of its time, according to what a producer tells us in the introduction before the movie starts. The film revolves around the sixth episode of “Grave Encounters” where the entire crew were to inspect an abondened haunted asylum where they disappeared and were never seen again. The only thing that was found was the 70-hour raw footage trimmed down to the last episode. And the producer that introduces us to the episode also tells us that what we’re about to watch is real, has not been tampered with, and just been edited strictly to cut down the time.
The movie also does not hesitate for a second to throw in some obvious satire on “Ghost Adventures”, which has become one of the most famous series in the genre. Grave Encounter’s host and producer Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) can easily be seen as a parody of Zak Bagans with the same style of clothing, hairstyle and manic behavior. The crew also brings along a psychic, a dude that looks like a mix of Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop who must turn on his acting skills between the takes. The series has so far been a pure hoax with its five episodes, but after they get locked inside the mental hospital while camera gets rolling and shit starts to happen for real, they show their true colors and aren’t as tough as they seemed to be. Well, exept the host, Lance, who pushes the crew to keep the show going.
What makes Grave Encounters one of the much better found footage films is the realism, great acting, and steady narrative. They go from being characters in a fake series where everything is scripted, to obviously distressed and scared people when things begin to actually happen. It’s that “what-if” scenario that makes Grave Encounters stand out from the found footage-jungle out there. What if all of those paranormal investigators actually got a real up-close encounter with a ghost? Would they run away, or would they actually stay and get more out of it? Well, in this case we know the answer, but it’s a funny thing to think of when you see one of these shows in disbelief. Also filmed in a hospital where the narrow, dark corridors give a cool, isolating atmosphere, and overall a great tension that builds as a locomotive till the end.
Director: The Vicious Brothers Country & year: Canada, 2011 Actors: Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Merwin Mondesir, Juan Riedinger, Shawn Macdonald, Mackenzie Gray IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1703199/