Friday, October 28, 2016

The Houses October Built (2014)

Have you ever been to a haunted house? Being a non-US native the concept is slightly alien to me, though I think I visited something similar once. I'm not sure my nerves are cut out for such a place, anyway - and it's that fact that made me think this film might be an enjoyable way to spend 90mins.

And for the most part it is... although it's also chock full of faintly cheap scares.

Presented as found footage, we travel with a group of friends in their RV across the states, looking for the scariest and most extreme haunted house they can find.

It's pretty good fodder for a film to be honest. The POV shooting style really lends itself to someting like this, as there's no real disconnect between the viewer and the haunted house experience. It's like we're going through it ourselves. I imagine in the cinema this was definitely one of those films that had people jumping in their seats.

Have you ever wondered, what would happen if a terrible murder (or zombie outbreak, etc) happened on Halloween? How would anyone know those bodies and blood is real?

And it's this idea that The Houses October Built plays with, too. This group is intent on visiting extreme haunted houses; to recapture the fear they had the first time they experienced one. As they visit more and more, they and indeed we, are left to wonder the following:

  1. Is some of this creepy backwoods shit they are seeing actually happening?
  2. What's the worst thing they are going to see/how far are they willing to go for the ultimate thrill?
  3. Are they being followed? Because that creepy clown/bunny/weird doll faced girl looks just the one from 300 miles ago...

The worst (and by that I mean best) thing in the entire film.

The "found" footage is intercut with haunted house workers being interviewed on camera, and these seem so completely genuine I wonder if the crew actually did seek out some real people to talk to. The acting of the friends, too, is very natural. They get drunk, they get irritated by one another... just like you do on a normal group holiday.

Where the movie went off the rails for me, was firstly jumping from footage the friends took, to footage apparently from the gang terrorizing them. Yeeah. Found footage to begin with requires quite the suspension of disbelief; to then ask us to buy into a second source of it in the same narrative, is a bit much.

Secondly, the ending feels like the writers didn't really know what to do, so they just picked something and quickly made it happen, and that was that. There was much build up to the Halloween day itself in this movie, with an onscreen countdown and everything. So the tension to The Day was definitely there. I will concede that this sequence was creepily effective..

The problem was that everything that came after it... not so much.

With creepiness as good as it sometimes gets, plus the cheap-but-potent scares, I would recommend this for a night in with the lights down and a few friends over. Especially this time of year. And if you don't see that doll face mask thing in your nightmares, you are a stronger person than I am!

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