The Houses October Built
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 291st review!
Man, last year seems so long ago. With the pandemic shutting down pretty much everything having to do with Halloween, I wanted to watch something involving people being outside enjoying themselves with a crowd, because horror is best enjoyed with others. So for today’s pick I wanted something that celebrated that fact. So I decided to check out...
The Houses October Built (2014). Hulu
As soon as we get past the opening credits the movie starts off like a documentary. You’re given clips from news stories of bad things happening at haunted houses, or haunts combined with interviews of the actors there. Throughout the movie it will occasionally cut back to the interviews from different actors. They start off innocuous enough at first, but get a little more out there and unnerving as the movie progresses. To this movie’s credit the interviews work really well and that opening scene sets the mood perfectly.
Once we get through that, we’re treated to an unconscious woman in the trunk of a car. A minute later we see she is one of the main characters, so already we find out these people are going to have a bad time.
It follows around a group of friends from Ohio on a road trip to see some “extreme haunts.” I recently found out those things exist when I stumbled into the rabbit hole of McKamey Manor, which, no thank you. One of the group members, Zack, is trying to find a secret haunt that changes location every year called “The Blue Skeleton,” following a weird set of clues like a less fun and more macabre National Treasure.
On the way they start running afoul of some of the haunters. The most unnerving scene in the whole movie has a young woman dressed as a doll just walking into their RV after standing ominously outside. From there weird stuff keeps happening and it’s at this point I’m remembering how my 7th grade teacher summed up the Blair Witch Project, “Don’t go into the woods with idiots.”
For this one, I’d say the morale is, “Don’t go on a road trip with idiots.”
Despite getting every sign they should give up and go home, Zack is adamant it’s all part of the show. From random haunters following them hundreds of miles, to these people sneaking in their RV, stealing a driver’s license and filming the entire thing and finally two people cornering the lone girl in the group in the bathroom and giving off really uncomfortable rapey vibes. Despite all that, Zack gets mad at his friends who aren’t so gung ho about continuing the trip. But still they go along with it.
I’ll circle back to things I didn’t like, but there are things it did right. For one, the chemistry between the group of friends is wonderful. All of their conversations are natural and not forced. These people are roadtripping across the US and the way they interact with each other is the strongest part of the movie. You really get the feeling these people are best friends. It’s not easy making friendships seem genuine in these types of movies, but this one nailed it.
I liked the different haunts they went to, it made me feel nostalgic as just about all of them are closed due to the pandemic. Also, the movie does creepy really well. The way they’re being stalked, the subtle movements from the people behind the masks and the little messages left to say, “Yeah, we were here, and yes, we’re watching you,” are all offputting in the best possible way.
Back to the flaws. It’s a found footage movie so you’re going to have to ignore the question of “Who the hell is taking the time to edit this together?” This one hand waves the question, which is for the best, only The Last Broadcast has given a good answer. And with found footage you’re going to deal with shaky cameras and darkness. I spent a lot time trying to focus on something during the intense scenes and just gave myself a headache. A lot of it is in the dark and for large chunks of the haunt sequences, you have no idea what’s going on because it’s either too shaky or too dark.
Then we get to the ending... I hated it. You had the characters running around with the idiot ball, and when they finally get to the “Blue Skeleton” it just ends after some screaming and hard-to-see sequences. It’s very unsatisfying as they left multiple intriguing plots dangling and I actually got angry when the credits popped up. There’s a sequel that picks up right after, but reading the synopsis, it seems like they didn’t get any smarter and just rehash this plot.
I liked it for the most part, it captures the feel of those places, the leads are strong and a fun group to follow around, even if they do really stupid things. It leaves you guessing if what’s happening is real or part of the experience, which is fun but kind of loses its luster. It’s a solid movie that isn’t so much scary, but it does creepy better than most I’ve seen. I’d be willing to give it a higher score, but the ending sucked.
5 Dr. Chainsaws!
The Houses October Built
Beneath the fake blood and cheap masks of countless haunted house attractions across the country, there are whispers of truly terrifying alternatives. Looking to find an authentic, bloodcurdling good fright for Halloween, five friends set off on a road trip in an RV to track down these underground Haunts. Just when their search seems to reach a dead end strange and disturbing things start.
Directors Bobby Roe
Starring Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews
Subtitles English [CC]
Audio languages English