What happens when you put five aging hipsters in an RV and send them on a road trip across the country, camcorder in hand, to document their “experiences” at America’s most purportedly scary Halloween-themed attractions?
If your answer to that question is “probably nothing good,” then you can skip seeing 2014 “hand-held horror” The Houses October Built — and truth be told you can skip reading the rest of this review, as well, unless you just want to spend a few minutes hearing about how right-on-the-money your initial supposition was.
Actually, to say that would-be documentarians Brandy (played by Brandy Schaefer), Mikey (played by Mikey Roe —by the way, what sort of grown man still goes by the name “Mikey,” anyway?), Jeff (played by Jeff Larson), Bobby (played by Bobby Roe, who also directed and co-wrote this snoozer) and Zack (played by Zack Andrews, the other co-writer) take their leased-out motor home “across the country” is something of a reach, as they only seem to go from their home state of Texas up to Pennsylvania and Ohio before doubling back to the Lone Star State to meet their demise, but whatever — I’m actually grateful they didn’t wander any further afield because then this flick would only have been longer, and it’s already interminably dull at just over 90 minutes. Besides, they only had five days until Halloween to get the whole trip in, anyway.
Admittedly, along the way they encounter some semi-creepy shit at some of these scare shacks, like the doll-faced girl pictured above and the psychotic clown pictured below, but I’d be lying if I said that much else of import happened on their gas-guzzling trek along a few of our country’s highways and byways apart from us learning just enough about each of these characters so that we can’t fucking wait for all of them to get killed.
The central premise in play with this flick actually isn’t so bad given that a haunted house n’ hay ride tour is a natural enough fit for the “shaky-cam horror” subgenre, but interesting actions will always trump an interesting idea, and the sad fact is that it seems our cadre of (I’m guessing here, but I’m pretty sure I’m right) Wilco and Arcade Fire fans just haven’t got that simple truism figured out, so all they manage to do is end up boring us to tears with their bullshit. It doesn’t help matters much that the lot of them are far from fantastic actors, either.
And speaking of actors — when did it become de riguer to refer to the paid-in-cash-at-the-end-of-the-night temps who work as zombies and vampires and shit at these terror traps as “scare actors”? Or to refer to the attractions themselves simply as “haunts”? I have no idea, but it’s annoying as hell.
The gist of the “plot” here is that, after hitting a few “haunts” out in the sticks and standing out like a sore thumb among the country bumpkins who staff and patronize them, our flannel-wearing crew gets wind of a “top secret” scare attraction that’s so realistic and so terrifying that it’s completely “underground” — it moves from place to place every year, you’ve gotta say a secret password to gain admittance, etc. They duly find the place and discover it’s actually a set-up for real psychopathic killers to lure gullible assholes like this them to their deaths — and hey, whaddya know, they do, in fact, get killed. The end.
That’s more or less all you need to know and, if you’re smart, all you’ll want to know about The Houses October Built. If you feel the desperate urge to blow off my advice and watch it anyway, though, it’s available on Blu-ray and DVD from Image Entertainment, or you can find it streaming on Netflix (which is how I stumbled across it — thanks for another great recommendation!). Still, it’s just a lot of hassle and runaround for nothing — everybody knows that if you want to kill a bunch of hipsters (never a bad idea), all you need to do is wire a bomb underneath a table full of craft beer, bacon, and coffee.