Monday, October 24, 2016

The Cinematic Black Holes Found Footage Built

Inevitably spoken dialogue in every found footage horror movie ever made:
"I can't see shit!"

Inevitably felt emotion by the audience of every found footage horror movie ever made:
"How do you think we feel?"

Quick Plot: A white guy with a beard, a white woman named Brandy, and two or three additional non-distinguishable white men decide to drive their RV across the country to document their search for the ultimate Halloween haunt.

Naturally, their camera-happy ways irk some ringmasters who proceed to follow the group on their journey, playfully leaving what could be interpreted as either death threats or invitations to the best haunted house you can imagine.

Since this is a horror movie, it's easy enough for the audience to guess which. Our characters, however, are still motivated to find the perfect Halloween experience, leading them into some bad(ly lit) times.

The Houses That October Built starts with an absolutely terrific premise. Halloween haunts get bigger every year, and the idea of using real-life ones across the country makes perfect sense for your average target audience, particularly when you're working on a limited budget. I would have loved to see that film.

But you know, I didn't actually see anything.

Like many a low budget found footage genre flick, The Houses October Built isn't particularly gifted at lighting. Night vision is fine, but when that method produces the clearest shots in your movie, there's something of a problem.

I could forgive some technical glitches if the content made up for it, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that I caught absolutely nothing about this story or characters. The actors are natural to the camera, but that doesn't make them interesting onscreen. One guy had a beard. One guy was a woman. I assume another was her boyfriend. I think there was one more. Or maybe two. Or maybe the guy with the beard shaved halfway through production.

My point is, I just didn't care. There was nothing charming or unique about these characters to ever make me invested in their fate. (On the positive side, there was nothing Crowsnest awful about them to have me actively root for their downfalls.) They drink beer. They eat pot cookies. They talk with food in their mouths.

So maybe they KIND OF had it coming.

High Points
Not surprisingly, the film has plenty of fun making use of the creative design involved in these kinds of haunts, from the creepy doll masks and evil clowns to the joy of zombie paintball (an idea I KNEW I should have patented back in 2000)

Low PointsCan't. See. A. Thing.

Lessons LearnedBourbon Street may be more tolerable on Halloween, when the vomit of frat boys can be confined to masks and not on every corner of the sidewalk

Dive bars are way more fun when filled with zombie prom dancers

When you meet a group of self-aware white twentysomethings, always assume they're filming you. Trust me: they are

Rent/Bury/BuyThe Houses October Built is far from the worst way to spend 90 minutes via Netflix Instant Watch. In the realm of found footage horror, it ranks somewhere right in the middle, mostly because the concept is just so interesting in itself. The rest of it, well, what you can SEE of it has its moments, but this isn't a diamond in the rough.


  1. I liked this one, it was fun... but I found myself wishing it had been a straight documentary about the people who build and work in such places... and the fans who visit them. I've worked in a few and they're fascinating on various levels.

    1. Totally. I think one of my retirement dreams is to open my own.

  2. While I'm no fan of found footage films,this was one of the better ones(alongside [the recent] CREEP and PENACE[2009]) as it plays like what would happen if Rob Zombie deeply dived into the found footage subgenre market(with the masked characters and psycho clown resembling leftover characters from [RZ's recent film] 31).

    1. I'd put it somewhere in the middle tier of found footage. It's definitely better than a lot of its peers, but I just found it really hard to connect to. I could definitely see your Rob Zombie point though!