THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT (2013)
Directed by Bobby Roe
Written by Zack Andrews, Jeff Larson & Bobby Roe
Starring Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe and Jeff Larson
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
I love haunted houses. I’ve been going since I was a kid and, like many of you, I look forward to October because that means they’ll be popping up all over town. That said, like the characters in THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT, I am getting a bit jaded at the same-old same-old stuff you see at these types of attractions. There’s the lights out maze, the chainsaw chase, and of course, tons and tons of masked people jumping out at you in the darkness. So if someone were to come to me with a proposition to seek out an underground, extreme haunted house, I most likely, like the kids in this film, would probably go along for the ride.
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT is an effective blend of found footage and shockumentary. The film indicates at the beginning that this is a compilation of footage found after a group of haunted house thrill-seekers go on a trip to find the ultimate in Halloween haunts. So the heavy editing and splicing of the different cameras didn’t really bother me as it does with others of this sort who try to pawn the entire film, cuts from different cameras and all, as something “found.” The technical aspects of how this film was put together was presented in such a way that it didn’t rip me out of the film. THOB also intercuts interviews with Halloween haunters, most of them dressed in full or half costume, discussing urban legends about extreme haunts, recounting actual mishaps and deaths that occur in these types of places, and pontificating about the type of deviant that might be attracted to working this type of job where they have to scare people daily.
The mix of the filmmakers aspirations to find the most extreme haunted house, the news footage of actual mishaps, and interviews with all sorts of seedy characters really does set the tone for something pretty scary and for the most part, THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT delivers a perfect bag of horrifying tricks and petrifying treats. The actors feel genuine in both their interactions with one another and their reactions to the scares (real and unreal) in front of them. And as the film goes on and the horrors get all too real, it feels like a natural progression of scares and not just a lot of the usual boring build up to nothing that often occurs in found footagers. The film opens with the group going through an actual haunted house—which I must admit made me jump quite a few times, then says “No, we want something better than that.” and actually lives up to that promise. That’s a promise not many films of this kind keep.
As the haunters begin to terrorize the group inside and outside of these roadside attractions, there’s a real sense of horror going on. The film feels like it peels back the curtain behind the lives of the people who work at these places; taking the viewer into haunter bars where they all go to hang out afterwards that are as twisted as the haunts themselves, and into chatrooms and websites designed to connect those who need the most extreme haunt and those who can provide it. This film ratchets up the strangeness from the ominous beginning and continues to screw with you until the end.
If you’re a connoisseur of side-road spook shows, back road monster houses, and Halloween havens, there’s a lot to like in THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT. While it does utilize the tried and true technique of the found footage motif, it delivers with effective scares and a whole lot of carnie weirdness. From start to finish the film actually gives you the feel of going through a real Halloween haunt. So if you can’t make your way to a haunted house this Halloween season, don’t worry. You can stay home and check out THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT for practically the same effect.