The Houses October Built (2014)

This new “found footage” horror film explores the burgeoning and controversial world of extreme haunted attractions, and should appeal to both hardcore haunt fans and industry insiders alike.

The Houses October Built” opens with some grainy stock footage of early carnival haunted rides before giving the statistic that nearly 2,500 haunted attractions now open annually across the country in the month of October.

We’re then introduced to five friends, appearing to be in their late twenties to mid-thirties, who have decided to go on a quest to find the most extreme haunted houses across the state of Texas over the last five days before Halloween. Zack is the extreme Halloween enthusiast who has talked his girlfriend, Brandy, and his four best friends into taking an RV across the Lone Star State in search of a mythic haunted house that supposedly opens in a different, undisclosed location every year that offers the most extreme and terrifying experience possible.

This is another one of those “Blair Witch Project”/”Paranormal Activity” films made up of “found footage” that some unknown entity has discovered and patched together to form a coherent narrative. While I’m pretty much sick to death of this entire genre, here it makes more sense than it does in some other recent “found footage” movies because Zack announces the fact early on that he has invited his film school buddy along to record their experiences for a future documentary project.

His intended cinematographer, Bobby, is in fact the director of “The Houses October Built,” and all of the cast play themselves under their own names. Most of the haunted attractions they visit are real haunts and all of the haunt actors are also the real McCoy, lending the whole production a certain legitimacy that ultimately pays off in believable characters and situations.

Not everyone will get equal enjoyment out of “The Houses October Built,” because the first two thirds of the film follow our heroes from haunt to haunt and nothing particularly “scary” happens until the tense and genuinely creepy third act. Haunt fans, however, will probably enjoy the first person tours of some of the most popular haunted houses in Texas and interviews with the haunt owners and actors, all of which appear to be unscripted.

At each haunt, Zack and his friends inquire about the locations of the most extreme haunts around, sending them further and further off the map in search of a legendary haunt called the Blue Skeleton. Asking questions about the Blue Skeleton leads them into several tense situations with gruff haunt owners and a strange breed of haunt actors. Soon enough they’re being followed hundreds of miles by some of the creepiest haunt actors they’ve met at other haunts and are subject to attacks on their RV in the middle of the night.

As they continue down the rabbit hole, their quest leads them to zombie strip clubs, strange haunter bars and ultimately over the state line to New Orleans on Halloween night where a tip promises to give them the secret location of the Blue Skeleton.

What happens in the Blue Skeleton is something you’ll have to watch the movie to discover, but it’s not a stretch for me to imagine some of the local haunt owners here in the Ville adopting the term, “the Blue Skeleton treatment,” for some of their more difficult customers!

It’s likely that readers of Louisville Halloween and serious Halloween & haunted house enthusiasts will enjoy “The Houses October Built” much more than the average horror fan. It offers a unique behind-the-screams look at extreme haunted attractions, their fans and the breed of haunt actors who populate that strange world. It asks some uncomfortable questions about how far a haunted house can (or should) go to terrify its customers who seem to demand greater shocks and physical threats every year to satisfy their expectations.

If you’re not already a haunt fan, and you’re not overly interested in haunt culture, you may find yourself wondering why you should care about these characters who have nothing better to do than to take a week off driving from haunt to haunt during the slow burn first hour of the movie.

The Houses October Built” is currently available to rent for $6.99 on iTunes, On Demand and Amazon Instant Video. It will be available to rent and purchase on DVD/Blu-ray on January 6, 2015.

The Phantom of The Ville

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