I’d have a hard time calling “The Houses October Built” a masterpiece, but I do think it has potential to become an ambience builder for future Halloween parties. I can see people playing this on a constant loop during the really adult and sinister festivities. While that may seem like a jab at the movie, I actually think that’s a compliment, as where “The Houses October Built” lacks in engaging characters, it makes up for in the Halloween mood and an interesting commentary on modern America and the general sentiment toward Halloween.
“The Houses October Built” is a found footage horror movie, but it’s also a semi-documentary that travels all over America visiting various extreme haunted houses. The general set up and premise is that we follow five friends, all of whom are creating a documentary looking for the most extreme haunted house. They set off on an RV on the open road a few weeks before Halloweens sets, and discover what can scare them, and what various communities consider terrifying. While there isn’t a lot of character drama, there certainly is a lot of tension, and a great commentary on modern America. Incidentally, horror fright houses have become the modern carnival with a lot of their workers transforming in to the modern carnie.
There is something charming and seductive about building a haunted house for Halloween, and engaging with locals as the colorful staff do everything they can to frighten customers. Much like the classic carnival, haunted houses have become road side attractions, appealing to tourists, and some people even desire to work for them. Director Bobby Roe’s film is practically a documentary as the five characters roam around discussing their experiences with haunted houses, and what scares them to the core. Along the way they’re repeatedly confronted by various unusual people, all of whom are dressed as haunted house characters. Before long they realize not only are they being stalked by various threatening characters, but their search for the most extreme haunted house might be closer than they ever thought.
“The Houses October Built” is a solid and entertaining horror experience that succeeds in delivering some neat tension and fun jump scares. Easily the best moments involve a confrontation with an axe wielding figure dressed as a rabbit, and the sudden intrusion by a performer in skull make up as they gather around an open fire. A lot of the elements of “The Houses October Built” are slightly ambiguous with director Bobby Roe thinning the line between scripted for the sake of forward motion in the film, and candid interviews with performers that are hell bent on scaring locals within the various haunted houses. It stumbles in a few places, especially with the all too abrupt climax, but “The Houses October Built” is a solid Halloween offering.