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The Hell House LLC duology

Movies, Music, and TV

The Hell House LLC duology cover

I’ve never found the found footage genre too compelling. More often than not, no matter what the plot, you ’re served a shaky camera filming occasional glimpses of out of focus apparitions and incoherent yelling. The Hell House LLC duology doesn’t stray far from the formula, but, for whatever reason, both movies work up to a point.

Set in upstate New York, the story revolves around an abandoned hotel, purchased by a group of young entrepreneurs aiming to establish a haunted Halloween house. The first movie kicks off opening night when tragedy strikes, and fifteen people — including all but one staffer — die. From there out, the story focuses on a documentary crew digging into the event, aided by the surviving crew member.

Does all of this sound familiar, even if you haven’t watched the movies? Of course it does, because that is how all of these found footage films go. The only differentiator is that writer/director Stephen Cognetti sets it up a whole lot better than most.

The characters here are both likable and believable, and for the most part, they stray past the genre’s tropes du jour. They aren’t just hapless teens running around a random haunted house on a dare; instead, they are theater professionals looking to set up a legitimate business. The crew is good at its jobs, and the clown mannequins they design are creepy. When things start going down, they have a simple and believable reason to ignore them and push on: the very human threat of bankruptcy.

Both movies are creepy. I’m sure you already think you know what the deal will be with those aforementioned clowns, but the films play it smarter than that. There certainly are the expected out of focus apparitions in the background tricks, but often there are some clever twists to them. A lot of Hell House LLC’s strengths play on keeping the cards close to the chest, and Cognetti is presumably a talented poker player.

A lot of the praise heaped on the first movie can be applied to its sequel. The Abaddon Hotel, as it is dubbed, follows yet another documentary team trying to uncover what happened to the original documentary crew. Up until the last fifteen minutes, I’d say the quality holds up perfectly well. Then, as these things too often go, Cognetti tries to over-explain the last two and a half hours in a way he had little reason to do. The two movies managed not to fall too far into the found footage trap up until then, so that’s a bit of a bummer. A slow unraveling of the plot worked well for the majority of the two movies, and I question if the planned third movie will have much to offer at this point.

A disappointing ending shouldn’t keep you from watching the movies1, as the journey is a creepy one. The duology has amassed a relatively sizable cult following, and I can see why. Found footage films rarely keep me interested for too long, but Hell House LLC captivated me enough to watch the sequel.

Bonus! Read a downright tantalizing review of Mr. Jones, another rare found footage gem.

1 In fact, the only thing that might stop you from watching The Abaddon Hotel is that it’s a Shudder exclusive, but really, if you like the good things in life, you should already have Shudder in your life.

Trailer


Nightshade

RestaurantsSeattle Area

I get the impression that Bremerton, the largest town on the Puget Sound Kitsap Peninsula, was quite the happening place back in the day. The downtown area is not big, but its density suggests it once upon a time was lively. These days, little is left of what once might have been, but with new developments around the ferry terminal, and a relatively burgeoning arts district, there are signs of better things to come.

It makes sense. Seattle housing prices are blasting past what an average worker can afford, and moving across the sound could serve as an alternative to the outskirts of King County. A quick ferry ride isn’t worse of a commute than anything Seattle has to offer, provided the place you venture from has something going for it. Bremerton isn’t there yet, but if spots like Nightshade keep popping up, it could get there.

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Step inside the café, and there is little to suggest you’re in a forgotten naval town. The interiors are as comfortably Pacific Northwest as anything you find in Seattle or Portland, and the menu has a large selection of vegetarian options. Even the clientèle is young and happening enough to suggest that Bremerton’s arts district strategy is working. You can get jars of Jean-Claude Van Jam here, which should add enough detached irony to please even the most discerning hipster.

The food matched the standards of the interiors during our visit, and my chorizo breakfast burrito, while not exactly a steal at $15, should be a solid entry in any tortillaphile’s repertoire. The beef was locally sourced from Sequim’s Clark Farms and was well enough seasoned to not disappear in a sea of ranchero sauce. Granted, I’m not sure the latter came as advertised, as it leaned more toward being a kicked up tomato sauce. That might sound odd (largely because it is) but it worked for me, and the result was a lighter meal than I expected.

Inside the tortilla, the potato mix had the right bite: not too firm; not too mushy. The hardiness of it and the meat contrasted the fluffy eggs and a sour cream/salsa mix within a balanced flavor palate.

The burrito wasn’t necessarily life-altering, but it certainly wasn’t worse than the baseline in larger, regional cities. Hop across the sound, and the equivalent meal would be comparable in quality.

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Props, too, to the fry bread, which was not your typical county-fair offering. Nightshade’s take was not deep-fried beyond recognition, and instead approached something akin to fluffy and rich.

The restaurant, then, feels a whole lot more urban than what one would expect from Bremerton. It isn’t the poster child of a brave new town, but instead for what it strives to be. Bremerton is not yet a young and happening commuter town for those looking for a bustling life and work balance, but there is no reason for it not to get there if things keep moving in Nightshade’s direction.



5th Avenue Sandwich Shop

RestaurantsOlympia

You won’t find 5th Avenue Sandwich Shop on 5th Avenue, but rather on Legion. Go figure, but the new location does, if nothing else, present the potential for an eventual re-branding to Legion Avenue Sandwich Shop, which would be kind of bad-ass. It’s probably a better name-street combination for marketing purposes, too, but I digress.

The shop is anonymously located in what looks like a vintage brick apartment building, and only an unassuming awning alerts you of 5th’s existence. Enter through an eerily empty hallway, and you’ll eventually find what is a classy looking joint. The age of the building does indeed give the interiors a distinct vibe.

While it won’t set the world on fire, the food holds its own. Granted, waiting fifteen minutes for a sandwich is a tad excessive, and a $12 price point for a meal (fries, but no drink, included) is beyond the high end of reasonable.

I gave the Hot Oly a shot, a sandwich I assume 5th’s attempt at creating an Olympia signature. I’m not sure the result is entirely successful, and the shaved beef, cheese, and pepper sandwich seems decidedly more Philadelphia to me. Still, the meat is decently seasoned, and it’s hard to argue against the jalapeño, pepperoncini, and onion trifecta. It adds a kick when combined with a zesty, Whiz-y cheese. (If that’s a good thing or not is entirely subjective.)

The bread, meanwhile, does not do it for me. It is possibly baked in-house, and if that is the case, the aspirations seem to not amount to much more than the Subway standard. Bread without flavor is not something that makes me happy, and you’re on pretty thin ice if you get that basic wrong.

On the flip side, props to the fries, which are tasty and have a good bite to them.

5th isn’t all bad. It’s certainly better than Meconi’s, though that isn’t necessarily a high bar. I don’t think the spot should be entirely out of anyone’s sandwich-shop-rotation, deep as it may sit. The sandwich is decent, but the price and bread hold it back from the quality we feel we deserve.



Revel, a senior living facility

MusingsOlympia

Am I too young to do a glowing write-up on a senior living facility? It depends on your point of view, I suppose. I might not be old enough to check into a place like Revel, and I’m a bit miffed about that. You know the whole enjoy your youth while you can, and all that? Yeah, after perusing Revel, I’m not so sure I buy into that.

The Editorial Board members vetted the spot during Olympia’s Chefs on Tour, which was a bit of a bumbling event. Five residences; five meals; one clear winner: Revel, the bona fide retirement home. This is not to knock some of the finer foods provided elsewhere on the tour — Bitter Sweet Chocolates and Sofie’s Scoops Gelato delivered the goods — and there were some lovely abodes out there. Revel, though, brought it, and more.

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I’m ready to hit this place up. Fist-bump with Phyllis, sample Jeremiah’s homemade tapioca, have an afternoon snooze while catching up on Murder She Wrote. Revel is set up for the twilight years I deserve, and my biggest fear is that by the time I’m old enough to be allowed in, I’ll be too old to enjoy the amenities.

Accusing a retirement home of ageism might be somewhat ironic, but I’m willing to do just that. That, or get a fake I.D.

The movie room, the gym, the spa? Residents only. The restaurant with a suitably early happy hour, which can only be described as high-end? Swanky enough for us to inquire if outsiders could dine there, just to be smacked down and rejected.

There are sensibly laid out apartments with tasteful finishes, flanked by kitchens you’d expect to find in a waterfront property, albeit with no water or front. Just Lacey, though on the plus side, you will never need to leave the premise, because my god, Revel’s got it all. I even heard rumors of a billiards room.

Alas, it is not meant to be. Not yet. I will say, though: Never before have I set my sights so firmly on being old. There’s a brave new world out there, and I, for one, am ready for it.

Picture taken from Revel’s website because I was too blinded by the greatness to remember to take one myself.