By Cynthia Rzucidlo
The Houses October Built (2014) directed by Bobby Roe, is a limited release film from Room 101 productions who’s also responsible for films such as Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) and The Devil Inside (2012), as well as the majority of the Paranormal Activity films. I found the synopsis of the film extremely intriguing and although I’d seen the film advertised on several different niche horror mediums such as “Fangoria,” I’d yet to come across anyone who’d actually screened it. Now, I know why.
This film had a perfectly interesting plot, one which could have been made into a terrifying or, at the very least, entertaining horror film. The story featured five friends who set out on a journey across the country, in the days leading up to Halloween, to find the most frightening and extreme haunts/haunted houses. The film was shot using the overwhelmingly popular first-person camera technique, in order to portray the idea that this was real footage shot by the main characters of the film.
Although the cast did a great job of becoming likable, relatable characters with an abundance of comedic relief, the film took way too long to become interesting. With a run-time of 91 minutes, about 45 of those minutes were a complete waste of time. The first half of the film consisted of the characters visiting different haunted attractions and though some of the costumes were aesthetically pleasing, you got the idea within the first ten minutes. Once the plot actually starts to develop, the five friends begin to realize that they’ve found the extreme haunt they’ve been looking for. A group called the Blue Skeleton begins to stalk the main characters, while leaving them hints which will lead them to the final haunt.
If the final haunt was as shocking or terrifying as it was anticipated to be, the time spent waiting for the film to start might have been worthwhile. However, the terrorizing and eventual demise of the main characters was completely lackluster. It was a lot of black and blurry vision, first-person camera angles which leave you guessing all too much. I can’t help but say how great some of the ideas in the film could have been, if they had been executed differently. The story was there, the scares were not.
The best and most interesting thing about The Houses October Built is that throughout the film, it featured chilling testimonials from scare-actors and short news clips/footage on real tragedies and deaths that have actually occurred at haunted attractions. After some further research, I found that all of the alleged real footage and scare-actor testimonials are indeed real. The real footage is all taken from a documentary previously done, by the same director, under the same title, The Houses October Built (2011). If this topic interests you, check out the 2011 documentary. I don’t recommend wasting your time with the fictional version.