Movie Review: The Houses October Built 2
by Jay Kay
I am a huge fan of the first The Houses October Built, I had high expectations for this follow up. One thing that really hooked me with this found footage film focused on the connection and how the group would recover after The Blue Skeleton abducted them. Were they dead? Was this a hoax? How would this play out for a sequel? Well, it did not play to the level I hoped for. Why this film is not failure of a film by any stretch, The Houses October Built 2 could have been much more overall.
The Houses October Built 2 opens with the police halting a burial by the ultra-extreme haunt group. We learn that The Blue Skeleton is not only mysterious but elusive, fearless and very well organized. After the events of the first film, we see that Brandy (Brandy Schaefer) has moved on with her life and away from the world that her and her quartet of friends became famous in. Known as “Coffin Girl” now after the events of the first film, the quartet including Zack (Zack Andrews), Bobby (Bobby Roe), Mikey (Mikey Roe) and Jeff (Jeff Larson) must convince her to rejoin them as they span the United States to discover a variety of haunts that are not the norm but push and redefine what challenges and frightens. As Brandy returns to the world of the haunt and balances friendship with financial, we see those involved will do whatever it takes to parlay the success into something more no matter the cost. While the group travels and visits an evolving slate of haunts as celebrities, there is a blue light and camera following them as well as manipulating them to their final destination of the most extreme haunt they have ever been faced with. Can they survive the journey let alone each other? What or who is manipulating the course of The Houses October Built?
Taking the formula from the first film, The Houses October Built 2 attempted to recreate the magic that surprised many fans. The first film felt raw, unscripted and at times frightening on different levels. Intangibles like the friendship within the group was the center and a very intriguing factor as they went from haunt to haunt on this tour into hell. The bond between them, the development of who they were together as well as separate. The humor in the reaction, interaction and coping with their fears. The first film had the same texture and grit that you expect a film of this over saturated sub-genre to have but felt welcomed. It moved at a pace that offered just enough of each haunt to build on the story and show the macabre magic. The ending was creepy and shaky with a human monster. It was without a doubt a passion project with support behind it. It connected with me and gave me a bit of a fright when most did not.
When I heard about the sequel, I was thrilled to know there would be another chapter. I was happy to know who was returning and why. Watching the film a couple of times before this review, I wanted to find the spark I felt with the first one but could not. I’m not sure if there was a specific point in the film where it lost me, but it just never settled on me. The film overall offers a lot for the viewers and is a good produced entry. During the running time, you see the development of the over the top Blue Skeleton as the primary antagonist as they track and further reveal the connection to the five friends from the first film. You see the creators Andrews and Roe expand the scope of haunts along the journey to recruit Brandy back to the fold and optimize their fame. The film further goes into the idea of what attracts the people to these haunts across the country. This shows the many sides of a haunt and the growing fame attached to them as the industry grows and evolves with technology, performance and risk.
The film still holds that grittiness but overall feels more polished with the camera work and edit. It feels like a follow up instead of a continuation from the original project. Even with the returning editor from the first film, The Houses October Built 2 feels like its missing development in several areas including the larger than life personality that Mikey was. We still see that spark he gives but it never fully ignites. Part of that disconnect in my opinion is the rush of the storyline between the five friends and how they were affected from the events of the first film. The Houses October Built 2 does not give a full backstory and affect throughout the film leaving plot holes. The film opens with Zack and Bobby approaching Brandy with a shady idea with good intentions. We never see the impact during the lapse between the two films which makes it feel like it focused on the group making their fame be the only focus instead of a human interest to go along to give more depth to the overall story.
In the end, The Houses October Built 2 is a fun film. It has its charm and style which stands out in a sea of found footage. The selections of the haunts are one of the high points in the narrative with the Hellbent location having a creepy vibe. This is a strength which Roe, Andrews and the crew know how to tap into. This plays well into color grade, the excellent camera work and use of camera technology to capture the variety of experiences. The costuming is a bit more basic in this film as The Blue Skeleton feel more like a gang rather than a haunt with the exception of the porcelain doll girl. The Houses October Built 2 has its humor and quirky moments to ease the tension. However, I wish this entry had been the third installment leaving the story where it ends up at the end of this film. To see the expansion and showcase of the haunt world, build the mystery and lore of The Blue Skeleton and have a redemption story between the friends before we see the greedier side of the gang and disconnect would have made this film a proper follow up. It feels all a bit predictable. I want to see the next chapter have the group face redemption in the eyes of a very protective haunt community, almost a Tod Browning’s Freaks style story. I know it’s a challenge to develop an original feel and continue it, but it lacks with this film. I give Roe and Andrews credit for the film they released as it definitely shows growth but which way with this growth as filmmakers in the genre.
Pickup The Houses October Built 2 on Blu-Ray, DVD and watch on VOD.