In 2014 Bobby Roe made his directorial debut with the found-footage horror movie The Houses October Built. It followed five thrill-seeking friends as they undertook a road-trip across America trying to find the ultimate scare experience. Their exploits were documented on a camcorder and we follow them as they delve deeper and deeper into the dangerous and disturbing world of extreme haunted houses.
The sequel to that movie, The Houses October Built 2, follows on exactly where the last one left off, with the five friends coming to terms with life after their horrific ordeal. For the four guys, this involves making guest appearances at local haunted houses and basically cashing in on their new-found celebrity status now that the events of the first film have gone viral on the internet. For Brandy (coffin-girl) however, she struggles with the psychological trauma of last Halloween and instead becomes reclusive to the scare-scene. Despite her so-called friend’s lame attempts at coaxing her out for one more publicity road trip, she remains steadfast in her conviction to shy away from haunted houses. That is until they mention the money they would be earning and the promises that there would be no repeat of last year’s incident. Being somewhat gullible, Brandy finally accepts their proposal and joins them for the last leg of their publicity tour. As in the first film, their haunted adventures become more and more unsettling until they finally reach the finale of their trip, the almost mythical ‘HellBent’, which takes their extreme experiences up a blood-curdling notch.
The Houses October Built 2 is the second in this American found-footage style horror movie franchise. It’s very much like its predecessor in the plot, in fact, it’s almost exactly the same and that is the first red cross against this rather mediocre horror movie. The second is that there is pretty much no horror in it at all, even when things get bloody towards the end, it feels orchestrated and theatrical. There were no genuine scares or even moments of tension. Despite looking like a higher quality production, this film was always just trying to cash in on the so-so success of the first film and in doing so, hasn’t delivered anything new nor even lived up to its older brother – which wasn’t even that great itself. Not to say this film is awful, in fact, I found myself happily being carried along with these foolish friends, however, I was more intrigued than scared. This film never really leaves you feeling like you’re watching a movie, it’s too much like a documentary, and this is where I’m caught between what to really think of this film. As a movie franchise, The Houses October Built is so-so mediocrity, however, if you were to view them as a two-part pseudo-documentary about the unsettling rise in underground extreme haunted house experiences across America, then it delivers quite well. In fact, the main actors all deliver quite convincingly natural performances that really compliment the feel of a good documentary.
The franchise is co-produced by Steven Schneider who has previously produced hit horror movies such as the Paranormal Activity and Insidious franchises, the Blair Witch remake and most recently M Night Shyamalan’s The visit and fantastic Split. But don’t expect a highly visual and tension driven epic here, this is nothing but a down-and-out poor relative of those movies.
The rather dull and sometimes compounding exploits of these five friends are accompanied by a rather dirty electro/industrial soundtrack, mostly provided by Steven Yeaman and Kent Holmes. The grinding themes are rough and chaotic enough to compliment the movie, however, never stands out as memorable in any way.
So, what really bugged me about The Houses October Built 2? Well, it’s the fact that despite the horrendous ordeal Brandy experiences in the first film, she is all too easily convinced to get right back into the action. She all too easily puts herself in some potentially dangerous situations, and even when she had finally had enough, the promise of a pay raise was all it took to get her back on side. The second thing that cranks my cogs is what a bunch of arsehole friends she has. They can quite clearly see how traumatized she is and how much she really doesn’t want to be there that at times it feels like she is being coerced into these road trips. That though is addressed towards the end of the film (no spoilers). I must admit, the last 20 minutes of this film almost rescue it – almost. The tension increases a little and you begin to feel a story emerge from the chaotic documentary mash-up. Much like Insidious 1 and 2 really need to be watched back-to-back in order to get the full impact of the story, so too The Houses That October Built is developed upon in the second film. The two films blend together to make one almost coherent story arc, although never enough to save the franchise. Believe me, this is nothing like the Insidious movies, but you can maybe see a little of Schneider’s influence coming through.
If you liked the first the first film, then you may find some form of closure with The Houses October Built 2. However, if you didn’t, which I’m suspecting would be the case with most of you that saw it, then no amount of closure will make up for a rather poor and mostly dull unscary horror film.