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December 26, 2016

The Houses October Built

by Franz Patrick


Houses October Built, The (2014)
★★ / ★★★★

Like countless disappointing found footage flicks, many of them a complete waste of time, “The Houses October Built,” directed by Bobby Roe, ought to have strived to become a better movie considering that it really does provide an interesting premise. Either through sheer laziness or wishing to be so different that it ended up backfiring, the picture does not have a third act nor does it provide the catharsis required in horror films.

Five friends (Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby and Mikey Roe, and Jeff Larson) embark on a cross-country trip to visit “extreme haunts” five days before Halloween. It is rumored that a handful are so intense, people who choose to partake are separated from their pack, tied up, blindfolded, dragged, and terrorized in all sorts of ways as if they were in a real-life horror film. Some of the people who work in these “extreme haunts” are even said to be genuine criminals, actual serial killers.

Being a found footage film, there are plenty of expected camera shaking. This conceit can be overcome given that something interesting happens on a consistent basis. However, here, much of the dialogue is flat and repetitive; the action is standard and uninspiring. Exchanges inside the RV ought to have given us insights about who the characters are outside of the road trip and why they have chosen to partake in the adventure in the first place—and still continue with their plans even though their instincts are telling them they should go back as they are thrusted into increasingly terrifying situations. Instead, we get mere vocalizations of how freaked out they are. Successful horror films thrive on showing rather than telling.

Shots that take place inside the haunts are downright awful. I imagine people who would get scared during these scenes are those who choose to not go into one in the first place. The director, Bobby Roe, needs to understand that just because a found-footage film is being made does not mean that filmmaking techniques can be thrown out the window. The pathetic walkthrough sequences are so terrible, anybody else without camera experience but with a sharp eye and intention to capture images that stick in the mind could very likely record scenes that are much stronger than what are offered here. The astounding lack of effort is an embarrassment and an insult to the viewers. It’s not even worth uploading on YouTube.

The picture provides no catharsis. Think of the best horror movies or even those you remember as if you had seen them only yesterday. In general, these films allow for the protagonist, or protagonists, to fight back against their terrorizers. Whether our heroines or heroes succeed or not is irrelevant. What matters is that they are given a chance to survive—and we root for them to see the light of day. This movie, on the other hand, does not provide any of these elements. It simply ends, and some random man is shown being interviewed—reiterating a point the prologue had already made. Clearly, the project does not value anybody’s time or intelligence.

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