Just a Nice Little Haunted House Movie.
The Houses October Built is a movie that revolves around the haunted houses that spring up every Halloween. Most of these places will be open for around six weeks, and much like the carnival and circus attractions that predate them, will use just about anything they can to outdo each other. There are always rumors of haunted attractions using real blood, body parts, etc., and that’s what The Houses October Built plays off of.
The Houses October Built is a found footage film that follows a group of friends as they make a documentary about seasonal haunted attractions. The film makes ample use of footage shot at real life haunts (the film started life as an actual “documentary”) interspersed with shaky cam footage shot on phones and various handheld cameras. The group eventually comes upon some very strange recurring scare actors that lead them, against their will at times, towards a moving haunted attraction called the Blue Skeleton. As the story progresses stranger things begin to happen to the group leading to the inevitable showdown with the denizens of the Blue Skeleton, and a very divisive ending.
The Houses October Built is a nice little haunted house movie that could have been a lot better had more time been spent on the details. A lot of the problems with this film, and the found footage genre in general, stem from pacing and plotting issues. So much of the exposition generally comes from people just talking at a camera instead of allowing a story to grow naturally, and this tends to lead to under-developed characters.
The primary cast (Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, and Jeff Larson) are fine in their roles but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. The script (written by B. Roe, Andrews, and Larson) is pretty standard horror stuff, but the pacing falls flat at times and too much emphasis is put on the real haunted attractions. This film, more so than others in the found footage genre, seems to be just as interested in the documentary aspect, probably due to the fact that a lot of the attractions are real. They want to fit a lot of the real footage in, and while this is understandable, the movie very well might have worked better as just a straight ahead doc. The direction of the film (also by B. Roe) is competent but relies a little too obviously on questionable improvisation and shaky cam effects to give the false impression of action.
One of the things the movie gets right, however, is the creep factor. The costumes are generally great and there is one doll-girl that freaks me out just thinking about her. The trailer for this movie got my attention due to her; she gives me the old-fashioned heebie-jeebies and that’s a fact! The clowns and various other sundry sort also lend a lot of spookiness to the proceedings, and that helps to elevate this above most middle of the road horror movies. It might not be an instant classic like Sinister, but it is one that I intend to watch again.
The found footage genre, which ostensibly started with The Blair Witch Project (still my favorite), is fairly young in the grand scheme of things. If Blair Witch is the top, and Cloverfield is the bottom, then this one sits firmly in the middle for me. It’s nowhere near as good as As Above, So Below, but The Houses October Built is definitely worth seeing if you are a horror fan and/or you like creepy doll-girls.
Until next time…