The setup for The Houses October Built sees five friends in an RV taking off on a road trip to explore various haunted attractions and document their findings. No sooner than their fun has begun, the group learns of an underground haunt that frequently changes location and is only accessible by those in the know. The closer they get to the underground haunt, the more danger the members of the group find themselves in.
The film was initially planned as a documentary that would explore the backstory behind a series of haunted attractions and the lives of the people that run them. That idea was ultimately abandoned in favor of making a scripted found footage footage film shot in mockumentary style.
The Houses October Built is directed and co-written by Bobby Roe. Roe’s screenwriting partners include Zack Andrews and Jason Zada. The film stars newcomer Brandy Schaefer and screenwriters Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews also appear alongside her.
The Houses October Built never quite finds its footing. The setup is an interesting one – particularly the documentary angle – but the decision to move away from actually making a documentary and opting to put together a scripted production proved a misguided one. The picture is mired down by potholes, gaps in logic, a lack of real motivation for why the characters are doing what they’re doing. All of that is then followed up with a lackluster finale.
The film meanders a lot in the first two acts and then shortly after things begin to take off, the picture abruptly ends. Without giving too much away to potential viewers, I found the ending to be ultimately anticlimactic. It left too much to the imagination and was riddled with plot holes and unanswered questions. I like an open ended conclusion that lets the viewer draw his or her own assertions but not when it defies logic and comes across as sloppy.
I am assuming that the footage that is spliced in between scenes is real – it is probably from the documentary footage that the filmmakers shot prior to shifting gears but that’s never entirely clear and thus makes the viewing experience a bit muddled and leaves the viewer uncertain as to which aspects of what they are watching are real and which are recreated and or scripted.
In spite of the film’s flaws, the cast has primarily good chemistry. They are likable and their interactions with one another seem natural. But unfortunately, a lot of what we see is footage of the cast sitting around the RV and making meaningless conversation about topics that have no bearing on the outcome of the film. Much of the footage that made the final cut is very banal. And the entire strip club sequence has no bearing on the rest of the film, whatsoever.
There are some legitimate scares to be had in The Houses October Built. There are some climactic moments building to the film’s conclusion and some of the documentary-related sequences are even a bit unnerving. But the tension isn’t really ever sustained over a long enough period of time to be truly frightening. I wouldn’t suggest rushing out and see the film. While this feature may be up the alley of die hard haunted attraction enthusiasts, it is not really a must see for anyone else.
The Houses October Built will see an October 10th Premiere in ten key theatrical markets – including Los Angeles and New York. It will also receive a simultaneous VOD release. Stay tuned for more on this title as it comes in.
WICKED RATING: 3.5/10
Director(s): Bobby Roe
Writer(s): Bobby Roe, Zack Andrews, Jason Zada
Stars: Brandy Schaefer, Bobby Roe, Zack Andrews
Release: October 10, 2014 (Limited theatrical and VOD)
Studio/ Production Co: Room 101, Image ENtertainment
Length: 94 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Found Footage, Mockumentary