Saturday, April 4, 2015

Film Review: The Houses October Built (2014)

The Houses October Built (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"I love the concept and the settings, but the lack of effective horror and story make this film difficult to get through."

Five friends embark on a road trip to find the scariest haunted house on the planet...

The Houses October Built is a very simple mockumentary/found-footage horror film. The film has your generic cast of interchangeable characters. These characters visit several haunted houses, conduct interviews and search for the ultimate thrills. The haunted houses are great, delivering a few creepy scenes; the interviews are also informative and enjoyable. When they're not touring haunted houses, this bunch of "witty" kids antagonize some employees and find themselves tormented by them. The ending of the film dragged on for what seemed like an eternity; I really had to fight the urge to fast-forward through it.

The Houses October Built is a very disappointing film. Aside from its cliché characters, the film actually started off promising. Like I said, I liked the haunted house tours and interviews. They were creepy and fun. The employees were lively and the settings were usually fantastic. It made me want to be there, which is an accomplishment. Unfortunately, between the few tours, we have to spend time with this group of friends -- this makes up more of the traditional found-footage aspects of the film -- the dreadful cliches we've seen in every other found-footage horror film. These scenes usually overstay their welcome and feature a lack of effective horror.

In fact, most of The Houses October Built lacks effective horror. This is partly due to the inefficient direction -- in terms of horror, at least, I like the mockumentary. The bigger issues comes from the poor pacing and the found-footage itself. The pacing is self-explanatory -- it drags due to the lack of suspense and character. The cliché found-footage issues are the usual suspects. The shaky camera is obnoxious -- it flings and flies all over the place. Worst of all, when things are about to get scary, the camera conveniently malfunctions -- I dislike this one the most. The camera works perfectly all day, but when you're getting stabbed or something creepy is about to happen the camera magically malfunctions... It's the worst! Just to clarify, I actually like a few recent found-footage outings, like The Taking of Deborah Logan and The Possession of Michael King.

The acting is about what you'd expect from a found-footage horror movie -- it's not terrible and not superb. The settings are fantastic. Unfortunately, the wonky camerawork fails to capture it competently. The makeup and special effects during the tours are great, too -- I don't think that has much to do with the filmmakers, though. Writer and director Bobby Roe has an immensely interesting concept in hand, but suffers with the execution; like many horror films nowadays, this feels like a short story stretched to fill a feature-length runtime. Unfortunately, that leaves room for plenty of boredom.

Overall, The Houses October Built is a mediocre film. I love the concept and the settings, but the lack of effective horror and story make this film difficult to get through. There were moments in the film, especially towards the end, where I really wanted to fast-forward. The few creepy scenes in the haunted house tours are redeeming, but it's not nearly enough to warrant the 90 minute runtime. If you don't mind a lack of horror and the crippling found-footage flaws, this is worth a stream or rental at most.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and some gory images, and nudity. (A scene at a strip club.)

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