(The gist: I hated The Houses October Built. While the premise was brilliant and I would even love to go on a haunted house quest road trip in real life, everything about the execution absolutely ruined it. It was a tedious and annoying waste of my night.)
I do not even really know where to begin this review. I hated The Houses October Built. Top to bottom and everything in between hated it. It was an hour and a half of mind numbing torture, and not in the good horror movie way.
As my weekly horror review fell on Halloween this year, I wanted to do something festive, a good Halloween horror movie I had never seen. I should have heeded the best Halloween horror movie lists I found on the internet. Instead, I was seduced by the haunted house premise and the promise of something from the people who did Paranormal Activity (which I did not personally like but most people enjoy and find terrifying) and Insidious (which I see must see).
The Houses October Built is about a group of friends road tripping across America in search of the most extreme haunted houses. Sounds awesome both to watch or to do yourself, right? Ah, if only. Horror mockumentaries (fictional stories shot in the shaky first person camera style) are hit and miss for me. Most are marginally entertaining or just eh for me. As Above So Below I vehemently loved. In the cases of The Houses October Built, as I said, hate.
My main problem with mockumentaries is that when they include the necessary character and story establishing beginnings (mundane dialog, normal context, and so on), without the drama or cinematography or a soundtrack, it can easily become as boring (or more so) than watching real life. With The Houses October Built, it seemed like an endless home movie of just this boring lead up.
Then the various haunted house scenes and interviews with staff members or attendees of these haunted houses seemed so scattered and mashed up then punctuated by plot chunks with the characters. It was just a menagerie of boring scenes that did not seem to build up to anything for me. My unfortunate viewing partner and I just waited for the moment the story would congeal and something exciting would happen.
That moment never really came for us. My viewing partner developed a headache and said it was his brain attempting to flee his skull so it would not have to watch this awful movie. It was that paralytically dull.
When the plot finally did climax, the film uses all misdirected shots or disorientating glimpses of something like a wavering glowstick and relies on the poorly executed actor lines to deliver the fear. It is too suggestive. After waiting so long for anything to happen, I did not want to see a flashlight that has been dropped on the ground and simply listen to some screaming and chainsaw.
And did I mention the “acting” was unbearable?
I think the entire failure of The Houses October Built is in the filming style. The premise is sheer genius. Not only do I want to embark on such a road trip in real life, the story explores the innate trust involved when we agree to enter a haunted house. We go in asking to be scared and trusting the participants to not actually harm us, especially in the increasing extreme options that are available. The Houses October Built looks at what could happen if that trust is broken, if you look too deep for something truly horrific.
That is an amazing idea and a haunting premise. However, this mockumentary shaky camera style completely neuters it. I think a cinematic omniscient perspective would have infused the proper amount of imagery and fear to do the idea proper justice.
Unfortunately, The Houses October Built ended up just being a painfully dull waste of my night. Thankfully, I watched it yesterday; otherwise, it might have ruined my Halloween.