An Interesting Idea, Doesn’t Necessarily Translate
Main Cast: Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews
Director: Bobby Roe
Brandy, Zack, Bobby, Mikey and Jeff are on the hunt for one thing at Halloween, the ultimate haunt. Over the course of five days leading up to the holiday, the five friends rent an RV and travel the south looking for the best haunted attraction they can find. They see a few, but nothing that knocks their socks off. Then one of them–I forget which, other than Brandy, they were all pretty interchangeable to me–gets wind of a legendary haunt that never appears in the same place two years in a row, and even changes its name from year to year.
This year it’s going by the name Blue Skull … or Blue Skeleton … again, I forget, and I just finished the movie about 30 minutes ago.
ANYWAY. So they’re traveling around, looking for extreme haunts. Meanwhile, we notice a few faces keep popping up throughout their journey, a costumed figure from their first haunt appearing at the second haunt … or was it the third? Man, the details of this movie really just fell right out of my brain, and not even after I watched it, but AS I was watching it, I think.
As I was saying, a few familiar costumes pop up now and again and their journey toward this ultimate haunt, Blue Whatever, just keeps feeling more and more mysterious and foreboding. One night, as they sleep, someone sneaks into the RV and records them, then posts the video online. The next morning they not only find the video on the internet, but also what looks like a large animal heart in their fridge.
They’re getting more and more freaked out, understandably, but they press on, because what’s the worst that can happen, REALLY? Most haunt employees aren’t allowed to touch the guests, and they certainly aren’t allowed to actually hurt them, not on purpose.
So the search for Blue Jasmine or whatever it’s called leads them to New Orleans where one of their number is beaten up by those familiar costumes–I mean, the people IN the costumes, not the costumes themselves; that would have been a much more memorable movie. No, the people in the costumes beat him up and drag him away and use his phone to get the contact info for the rest of his friends.
They lead them to a spot in the middle of the night where everyone is bound and blindfolded, loaded onto a school bus, then driven to a new location where, one by one, they’re led into the haunt. And as far as I could tell, each other had to go through their own haunt individually, not as a group.
But that’s not all. The haunt for blue October is just getting started and soon they’re all tossed into the trunks of cars and taken to yet ANOTHER location. Will their nightmare ever end?
Who knows? I mean … not until you watch the sequel, which I haven’t done yet, so I can’t really say if it did or not.
What I CAN say is that The Houses October Built is … well, it’s a movie. Is it great? No, as you can see I couldn’t remember most of the finer details ten minutes after the thing ended. But was it the worst movie? Not by a long shot.
While The Houses October Built may not have been strong in many areas, it did succeed in some others. The tension built by the characters and the plot was pretty strong. The sense of paranoia as the viewer–I don’t know if the characters felt this way, but I know I did– feels that there’s some deeper conspiracy at play and the ultimate haunt they’re seeking just might be even bigger and more all-encompassing than they’d first thought was what kept my interest and allowed me to plow through to the end when, several times in the first thirty minutes I seriously considered switching to something more interesting.
Written by Zack Andrews and Bobby Roe (yes, each character went by their actual first name–did I forget to mention this was a found footage movie?) with a third man, Jason Zada, and directed by Bobby Roe (writer/director of The Houses October Built 2), this movie was one I kept passing over in my Netflix queue because I just had the feeling there was going to be something about it that left me feeling like I could have spent that time doing something else.
And I was right. I’m not saying skip this movie altogether, I just wouldn’t get in a big rush to go find it right away and put it on. It’ll do in a pinch, is what I’m saying, as long as you don’t need your horror movies to actually be SCARY for the first 2/3 of their run time. Because every “scare” this movie provided for that first 2/3 was all stuff the characters encountered in their haunts and, as an outsider watching from my couch, NONE of it was scary at all. The characters, they were probably freaked out by it, but I was left wholly unaffected.
In the end, The Houses October Built tried something interesting as a storytelling method, letting the scares come from the characters traveling around TRYING to be scared, but unfortunately, the scares don’t transfer well and this viewer kept checking the time to see how much movie there was left. And once things DID finally pick up, the rest of the movie went by way too quick and it all ended on a WTF moment. Personally, thank God I know there’s a sequel because if THAT had been the ending I saw in 2014 or any other time before the sequel came out, this movie would probably be getting a lower rating.
Watch this one at your own risk, just don’t say I didn’t warn you. I totally warned you.
C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.