New this week in theaters and available On Demand / Digital HD from RLJ Entertainment!
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 (2017)
Directed by Bobby Roe
Written by Bobby Roe, Zack Andrews
Starring Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Mikey Roe, Bobby Roe, Jeff Larson
Find out more about this film @TheHousesOctoberBuilt and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
I liked THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT a lot when it was released a few years ago as it celebrated the haunted house attractions and how extreme they have become through the years. I hadn’t come up with my Found Footage Horror Questionnaire when the original film was released, but let’s see how this sequel fares against it.
What’s it about?
A group of longtime friends reunite after college to celebrate their friendship and their shared love of horror by visiting extreme haunts, one more invasive and macabre than the next. Eventually, these haunts culminated with the five friends going to an extreme haunt called the Blue Skeletons and were put through the ringer and seemingly were killed in the final moments of that film. THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 picks up right where the last one left off—revealing that the five weren’t killed, but were dropped off a few miles from the haunted house and left to walk home. A year later, the group gets together to take on some new October terrors (some of them more reluctant to join this time than others), not knowing that they are being stalked by what seems to be the same group of ghouls that tormented them last year.
Are the actors successfully acting like they aren’t acting?
Those who enjoyed the way the antics of the longtime friends felt authentic get another dose of that goodness here. For the most part, everything feels unscripted and real—as if this is really a group of people hanging with one another because they enjoy being with each other. Even when things get serious, the acting is believable. One of the things that is missing, though, is the authentic way the actors reacted to the scares in the first film as they walked their way through multiple haunts. I enjoyed seeing Brandy Schaefer scream every time a monster jumped out at her in the original. This one had a few of those scenes, but Schaefer’s reactions weren’t highlighted as much. Part of what sold the original was that it really felt that the actors were scared while walking through these haunts and this one doesn’t have as much as that, unfortunately.
Does the footage found seem authentic and untouched by additional production (no omniscient editor making multiple edits between cameras or an invisible orchestra providing music)?
This is where this found footager becomes problematic. This film is all over the place in terms of convincing the viewer that the footage is authentic and “caught on tape” rather than filmed. Scenes are added when no camera is there to capture it within the story. Music is added to key scenes to heighten ominous mood and suspenseful atmosphere. A drone is introduced, a la BLAIR WITCH, and I’m kind of already sick of the use of this modern technology used in found footage as while it gives an amazing view, it’s all the same type of shot and really adds nothing to the film in my opinion, other than establishing shots. There is a zombie 4K run that is filmed via GoPro and the drone that looks more like a segment in MTV’s ROAD RULES than a horror movie. There is even an “evil” camera view tinted in blue to signify the Blue Skeletons stalking the crew. While events occur late in the film to justify all of these edits, additional music, and overall cinematic production of the film, as the film is playing, it definitely took me out of the movie and for me, if you’re doing a found footage film, the goal is not to distract the person with the production intervention in the process of telling the story.
Why don’t they just drop the camera and get the hell out of there?
Well, due to one factor that I won’t spoil, the cameras roll the whole time. Sometimes the cameras are mounted on the participants while other times we are looking through the lens of the Blue Skeletons and since they are the monsters doing the scaring, they wouldn’t be dropping that expensive equipment. The other reason is that the group doesn’t know they are in danger until the very last minute, so in their eyes, this is just a documentary they are filming to make big bucks on Youtube.
Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional or a REC-drag away from the camera?
Nope. The confessional is talked about, but Brandy quickly says that while she might need the confessional, she doesn’t want it taped. So there are no scenes where this occurs, thankfully.
Does anything actually happen? Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
The film is filled with all kinds of fun. Because Brandy is against returning to the group if they explore haunted houses, the group takes on new challenges like a zombie pub crawl (with a fun brains eating contest guest starring Hot Dog Eating Champion Takeru Kobayashi!), a zombie 4K run, a haunted art show in a warehouse, and a haunted hayride. They also visit a few haunted houses, so we get more of that, but not wanting to repeat themselves, the film lives up to the challenge of highlighting more things to do in October. The action rolls pretty much all the way through and while the scares don’t really happen until the last reel when the group is abducted, taken to a fabled haunt named Hellbent, and forced to run the gauntlet through a new horror house, it’s a fun ride all the way through.
Does the film add anything to the subgenre and, ultimately, is it worth watching?
Like THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT before it, THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 is another celebration of our favorite month and all of the fun activities available for horror fans to take part in. The sequel is bigger and better than the first with the creators milking the small celebrity they achieved with the first film. I think the larger scope kind of hurts the overall story. I liked the twists and turns added, but the finale will piss off some. I liked the way that the film continued the stories of these ultimate haunt fans and while there are some stumbles in the way this wraps up and while the film tosses authenticity of the found footage out the window, THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 is a fun follow up that’ll please those attracted to the first film.