At this point in the horror film genre’s development, found footage films have been driven into the ground. It seems every month a new exorcism or possession movie drives yet another nail into its coffin.
Focusing instead on haunted houses, “The Houses October Built” is a found footage film that offers promise with a novel concept. What could possibly go wrong? In “The Houses October Built,” apparently everything.
“The Houses October Built” is a film about a group of haunted house enthusiasts who travel around the country in search of the most extreme haunted experience. Along the way, the friends film their experiences living together in an RV while also documenting the different haunts they go through. Their unwelcome cameras and cocky attitudes anger the workers in the haunt community, and before they know it, the haunt hunters become the hunted.
The film’s trailer is promising, the highlight of which is a frightening little girl dressed as a doll entering the characters’ RV and unexpectedly shrieking. Yet, that is the scariest moment and nearly nothing remotely scary or interesting happens until about 45 minutes into the film. The plot reeks of predictability, the characters should be named unmemorable actor one through five and the camera technique is by far the most horrific thing the film has to offer.
Unlike its successful predecessors, like “Paranormal Activity,” the film’s home-video technique was a flop. Few of the shots were fluid enough to convey a convincing plot or allow the viewer to distinguish the different characters, let alone develop any sort of attachment to them.
All the acting in the film seems reaction-based, leading to mundane performances. The characters lack the ability to have a cohesive conversation or monologue. Consequently, the film is void of any quotable or memorable scenes.
More importantly, the plot lacked any twist ending. In the world of horror film, this is what sets apart the greats from the B-list films. Critically acclaimed horror movies such as “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Rosemary’s Baby” have been noted for their tell-tale surprise plot twists. “The Houses October Built,” however, will fade into the monotonous collection of awful horror blockbusters on Netflix.
The characters’ journey through various haunts, which could have been the film’s greatest appeal, instead was one of its biggest failures and only serves to advance the viewer’s confusion. While the characters on screen are constantly getting spooked and screaming because of demon clowns and ghoulish actors, the viewer is left in a state of perpetual boredom. These scenes are so similar to ones where the characters are actually in danger, the viewer doesn’t even notice the characters are screaming in genuine terror.
The true injustice of this film lies in the fact that it had great potential. The film really could have played on intrinsic fears such as being buried alive, chainsaw-wielding clowns and creepy doll-girls. However, it fell flat.
One of the more interesting scares, where a mysterious stranger enters the friends’ RV and films them while they are sleeping, still managed to replay the same clichéd moments we have come to expect from found footage movies.
“The Houses October Built” is not something worth paying to see in theaters, especially since the visuals are sub-par at best. But if it does make its way on to Netflix, it might be worth a view assuming there’s nothing better to do on a Tuesday.
– Kelsey Rocha