At some point in your childhood you probably tested your mettle at a local scare house. It may have been a shitty ride at the state fair or an intense maze of scarecrows and clowns at the local farm. No matter what, we as humans understand fear and deep down know exactly what it takes to break our sense of safety. As time passes, it seems that humans are stomaching more and more horror. With that in mind, has humanity become desensitized to fear?
The Houses October Built is a found footage horror film that focuses on the tradition of haunted houses and the desire humans have to experience fear at a much more extreme manner than past generations. This generation of young whipper snappers aren’t traumatized by jump scares and flickering lights. Instead, the dulled minds of our young counterparts need safe words and physical assault. The movie begins with a group of friends venturing across the American south searching for the ultimate horror experience, the Blue Skeleton. Each of the haunted houses they go to further their need for a more extreme situation. The Blue Skeleton is allowed to bound you, torture you, and pretty much anything else. After experiencing some less than awesome haunted houses, they realize that creepers are following them. What ensues is a couple of genuinely good scares and interesting talking points.
Amazing premise right? The problem is The Houses October Built doesn’t explore the causes for our change in human desire nor does it adequately explore the negative consequences of humans wanting more and more realistic scares. Instead, it simply brings up probing questions while ultimately focusing on a rudimentary horror with predictable scares and plot lines.
This movie simply doesn’t elevate itself out of the cookie cutter horror films that we see churned out on a weekly basis. Why do we love being scared? How far is too far? All of these questions are amazing, but the film doesn’t investigate these questions enough. Every time I found myself enthralled by this film, I was brought back down to earth by unoriginal characters and predictable plot lines. We as horror viewers have to deal with stupid characters most of the time, but it was painful to watch these friends continually put themselves into horrible situations. The film is entirely found footage, which adds to the documentary aspect of investigating the history behind haunted houses. Then again, it also makes the transition between documentary and horror film all the more confusing and jaded.
The Houses October Built has a fascinating and original premise, but it was executed in an unoriginal way. A lack of acting, creativity, and focus results in a movie that didn’t live up to its potential. Untapped potential may work in some places, but on Horror Island we need every good horror film we can get. While these characters yearn for extreme scares, I yearn for the time when horror films were creative, unpredictable, and genuinely terrifying. Humph.
If you liked The Houses October Built, you might also like Cropsey or The Blair Witch Project.