The Houses October Built
Starring Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson
Written by Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Jason Zada
Directed by Bobby Roe
Five friends embark on a road trip to fin the most ‘extreme haunt’, and soon discover something much worse.
The Houses October Built is not the savior of the found footage genre of horror films. It is a smart, funny, occasionally tense undertaking, though, and makes use of the found footage gimmick effectively. It very rarely falls into the ‘let’s keep the camera rolling and hope people don’t question why we don’t put it down’ cliche that is so often used in these types of films. While it has its moments of high tension, never did it actually scare me. It never really crossed that line in ‘WTF’ territory, either. It is a fairly safe, predictable horror film that has a lot going for it despite the limitations of it’s budget. I enjoyed it.
Five friends rent an RV and head to Texas to try to find the most ‘extreme haunt’, a haunted house so extreme that all the rumors about haunted houses prove true. Using actual body parts in the design. Hiring actual serial killers, etc. They are looking for a haunt that we have all heard of but never expect to exist. After visiting a few, they are soon directed to The Blue Skeleton, a haunt that moves year to year and is never advertised. Things go terribly wrong from there.
As the friends move from one haunt to the next, weird things begin happening to them. They run into performers from haunts a hundred miles away. As they are camping, performers walk out of the woods in full makeup. They are being stalked, it seems, by haunted house folk, and this leads to some creepy visuals in the film.
What I found surprising, though, is that they got so afraid of some of this stuff happening, especially when they were still at the haunt. I was thinking to myself that these haunted house people know they are filming so are going all out to get the scare. And with as jumpy as these people are, why in the hell would they go looking for the scariest of the scary? They could go to their local haunt, get scared, then go to the bar and booze it up. They didn’t need to travel from Ohio to Texas to be scared. They could have found all they wanted in Ohio or neighboring states.
Another question I have from the film? In the beginning, it says the footage was their footage with the rest being from the employees of The Blue Skeleton. Who supposedly found this footage? Why would The Blue Skeleton crew allow it to be filmed? Despite the wearing of masks and whatnot, the authorities would somehow be able to identify them. This is an interesting conundrum that I hope it answered in the inevitable sequel. Then again, the ending to the film leaves the door open for all kinds of possibilities for a sequel. *Note: For a couple of easy ideas, feel free to contact me, film makers.* It also leaves it intentionally vague about what actually happens to these people. You can read it a couple of different ways, and if your friends watch this with you it can spark a nice conversation.
Despite these flaws in logic, I was quite entertained by the film. This was filmed in actual haunts with some of the actors being actual haunt performers. Despite the limitations of the hand held genre, they do a surprisingly good job of letting you see what is actually happening. It rarely devolves into the ‘shake the camera so the audience can’t see what’s going on’ bullshit that so many of the films made hand held fall into.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have never went to a haunted house. Well, not the Halloween, try to scare you type of haunted house. I have never went through a corn maze. As a horror guy, I know that is probably surprising. While I have visited, and lived in, houses that are actually haunted, I have never been able to bring myself to go to one of the houses that this film visits and is searching for. There really isn’t a reason for this, I just have never seen the fascination. Trust me, it kind of surprises me too.
Also, with this being a smaller, low budget feature, it must be noted that this is not a promotional review of the film. I bought my copy on Vudu. While I did attempt to reach out to the film makers in the hopes of setting up an interview and a feature on the film, I was never contacted back.
I enjoyed this film quite a bit. It is the first hand held/ found footage film I have enjoyed for quite awhile. While there were a couple flaws in logic, which I pointed out above, and the film is not terribly frightening, it is enjoyable. It is held aloft by decent performances and a story that doesn’t overstep it’s bounds. It stays firmly focused on their quest at hand; to find the fabled extreme haunt. This Halloween, do yourself a favor and check this out. It may not scare you, but it is a wild ride.
*** out of ****