Upon being introduced to the crew involved in the unveiling/refurbishment of a commercial ‘haunted house,’ you’re met with characters you’re mostly indifferent towards. This isn’t an entirely bad thing – you could regard the characters the same as beings only temporarily mourned for; statistically disregarded by profiteering news-reporters.
With many features like this one you’re most often hoping for the hasty demise of certain personalities. I guess it’s true when considering the initial lecherous camera man, though.
One hour into the film, the saying that ‘the entire world is a grave-yard’ comes to mind; and the blasphemous/disrespectful nature of commercial business in question is something one can muse upon philosophically; even with the film being entitled in such a conventional way.
Upon hearing of the history of the infrastructure they’re commercializing, this is all too true. The murder(s)/suicides that historically occurred there opens up a realm of non-supernatural elements that were likely behind the demise of everyone featured; which isn’t a spoiler.
The police force’s ignorance to the whole situation could be regarded as something contrived, considering the lack of intervention or preventative action where such a disrespectful entrepreneurial project (in the eyes of a small locale) is concerned.
The crew’s familiarity/fondness toward horrific scenes/urban exploration is something that stops this film (and their actions) being an absolute cliche. The situation they’re presented with is like a jack-in-the-box containing a grenade.
The Blair Witch inspired corner stare was too regurgitated to be shocking, although one could consider it an act of homage; when comparing the contextual similarities of the group and their destination to the feature that made the found-footage sub-genre commercially viable – this is actually quite ironic and adds a layer of self-awareness to the film.
As far as the cameraman (Paul) and his initial victimization is concerned, there’s certainly some tongue- in-cheek elements involved; like a horror aficionado would hide under a blanket in the face of life threatening opposition!
However, with his comatose state in mind (which most audiences would regard as some sort of hypnosis/witchcraft and later supposed actions, both drugging and video editing are possibilities that make what transpired at Hell House an act of calculated callousness.
In terms of who or what’s responsible for their eventual demise, it’s difficult for most audience members to determine that the fates of those featured isn’t resultant of some supernatural trope. It’s making a sociological point about small town politics and death squads with legislative immunity.
Pranks and such preceding the disappearance of Paul prevents the audience from regarding the decisions of the group as illogical; as they’re actually concerned for his well being – and have no solidified justification to flee with only self preservation in mind.
The idea that folklore in certain jurisdictions can be used as a smoke-screen to ‘blanket’ legitimate murders is something that Hell House brought to the forefront of my mind; with signal jamming and electricity cuts being regarded by external parties/journalists as something supernatural (or naturally occurring) rather than being reported as meticulously planned murders by sophisticated serial-killers (who most certainly did their due-diligence.)
Even the placement of the bibles in the basement could be regarded as a tactical, subversive effort to manipulate the narrative of what transpired in the ‘Hell House.’ This is also a self-referential element, with the group regarding them as excellent ‘props’, when in reality they were narrative instruments utilized by the murderous collective.
Later in the film, it’s ascertainable that the ‘clown-actor’ they opportunistically employed at a local gas station infiltrated their entire operation from the very beginning; the abnormal manner by which he manipulates one of his own eye-balls speaks to his depraved character – his later suicide was likely involuntary (and set up) – essentially, the murderers omitted from the movie were clearing up loose ends.
The hanging of their real-time reconnaissance (and one of the victims) ties into the urban legend preceding the establishment; as if to further the notion that these fatalities are the result of something paranormal. In reality, occurrences like these are ritualistic methodologies employed by the most ruthless form of serial killer(s).
It probably let down a lot of people in terms of the overall gore and climax, which leads one into determining that this is a film worth regarding within the confines of logical reality.