Starring Zack Andrews, Mike Roe, Brandy Schaefer, Jeff Larson, Bobby Roe
Directed by Bobby Roe
Distributed by RLJ/Image Entertainment
Why are horror movies so much more effective when we’re young? Things are scarier when we’re young because we still have that question in our minds. We know that the thing in front of us is fake. It’s a movie, a production with actors and F/X artists. But as children, the question always lingers, “It is fake, right?” And there is the question that surrounds The Houses October Built.
The movie was written by Zack Andrews and directed by Bobby Roe, both of whom have featured roles. It details the story of five individuals who are traveling around to some of the country’s best haunted attractions trying to find the best and most extreme ones in existence. And, of course, by “haunted attractions” we’re referring to those establishments that pop up right around October every year and feature all kinds of frightening creatures and evil entities looking to turn your Friday night out into a thing of nightmares. Our friends in The Houses October Built are looking for the best and baddest of these attractions and think they’ve found it in a mysterious haunted experience called The Blue Skeleton.
Since The Blue Skeleton is a moving, secret attraction, the hunt for the haunt leads them all over as they travel from place to place in a badass RV, but as they visit one haunt after another, they always seem to rub some of the actors the wrong way. Soon it appears that the actors may very well have it out for this group of documentarians, and as they draw closer to The Blue Skeleton, all sorts of strange things begin to occur. Is it worth the trip? Are these people terrorizing the group genuinely malicious, or is it all part of the show? That’s the true question to be answered in The Houses October Built.
The movie itself is quite effective. Shot in the found-footage style, The Houses October Built not only has a very chilling side, but it’s definitely lighthearted at times as well. Following a group of four men and one woman in an RV rolling from haunt to haunt certainly provides for some humorous entertainment. But when the filmmakers decide to buckle down and develop some tension, they do it well. Unfortunately, there is a lot of down time in between haunts where the gang hangs out in the RV, traveling or just messing around. It would have been nice to see a bit more action and less setup, but overall The Houses October Built manages to move along at a decent pace.
A big plus for The Houses October Built is the cast. Oftentimes we’ll find found footage indie films like this with a cast that’s just not up to par, eliminating all the realism from the movie. That’s certainly not the case here. The cast (whose characters all use their real first names) is quite effective. Specifically Brandy Schaefer and Mike Rose come across as very authentic. The characters the main five players bring to life are intriguing, and you quickly find yourself caring about them and involved in this excursion.
The DVD contains a few special features. There is a Behind the Screams featurette that takes a look at some of the real-life haunts featured in the movie. This could have used another sub-menu as all the haunts are featured in separate segments, but there is no way to select one individually. You’ve got to watch them all to see any of them. There are some pretty dull deleted scenes that don’t really amount to much. Also a collection of photos of some of the scare actors featured in the movie as well as some shots of the cast skillfully carved into pumpkins by The Pumpkin Geek. Really cool work. However, the highlight of the special features only appears on the Blu-ray edition of the film; it’s the full-length documentary that inspired the The Houses October Built. Great to get a look at what got the wheels turning for this one.
Overall The Houses October Built is an impressive film, especially for an indie found footage offering. There are some pacing issues as it does drag in places, but for the most part it keeps the action moving. The cast does a quality job, and director Bobby Roe ties it all together nicely. And some of the footage of them walking through the traditional haunts has to be authentic as the scares just seem too pure. As the film rolls on, we are placed in a position to try to determine how much of what we’re seeing is real and how much of it is fabricated for the sake of an extreme haunt. A nice surprise ending puts a bow on this quality package.
- Behind the Screams featurette
- Deleted Scenes
- Image Galleries
- Full-length Documentary (Blu-ray only)