“The Houses October Built 2” is a found footage horror film directed by Bobby Roe and Written by Zack Andrews and Bobby Roe. The film is the long-awaited sequel to the wildly popular The Houses October Built (2014). The first installment of the franchise is destined to be a found footage cult classic. Does the sequel live up to the lore built by the first film? Let’s find out!
As we often point out in the pages of Found Footage Critic, there are not many Halloween themed found footage films. The titles that often come to mind include the classic UK film Ghostwatch (1992), the US-born haunted house favorite Hell House LLC (2016) (soon to become a franchise with the sequel filming in November 2017), and (of course) The Houses October Built franchise.
Houses October Built (2014) Recap [Contains Spoilers from the First Film]
Fans who have seen the movie trailer for The Houses October Built 2 may have already surmised that the sequel begins right where the first film leaves off. Before diving into our review, it’s fitting that we take a step back and recap The Houses October Built (2014).
The Houses October Built franchise follows five diehard haunted house enthusiasts who travel the country in an RV in search of the most extreme Halloween haunts. Along the way, the eager group (and viewers) get a rare glimpse behind the veil of some of the scariest haunted attractions the country has to offer. The group’s quest brings them to major US cities and backwoods towns—where each haunt is scarier and more terrifying than the last.
While searching for the ultimate Halloween haunt, known only as the Blue Skeletons, the group of haunt enthusiasts is shocked to learn that they are being followed. The hunters become the hunted. The five friends are kidnapped by the Blue Skeletons and become unwitting participants in the ultimate Halloween haunt.
The film ends with Brandy, the female member of the group, being buried alive in a coffin. Her only companion is the camera at her side, recording each terrifying moment. This is where The Houses October Built (2014) ends.
Houses October Built 2 Overview
The Houses October Built 2 picks up minutes after the first film leaves off. Brandy (Brandy Schaefer), who was buried alive in the first film, was presumably dug up by the Blue Skeletons and placed in the trunk of a car, where she was then driven to a remote location and set free. We learn through a series of news clips that the Blue Skeletons were broadcasting a live stream of Brandy’s burial on the Internet for all to see.
A year later, with Halloween fast approaching and undeterred by the events of last year, haunt enthusiast Zack (Zack Andrews) and brothers Bobby (Bobby Roe) and Mikey (Mikey Roe) are ready to hit the road in their RV and visit more of the nation’s Halloween haunts. Their Internet celebrity status from the Blue Skeletons incident a year earlier has enabled the group to capitalize on the experience. They are now paid by Halloween haunt owners to visit their attractions and rate them on social media.
While the group is eager to visit more haunts, the same cannot be said of Brandy, who is emotionally scarred from last year’s traumatic event. She is now known around the world as Coffin Girl, a nickname she picked up as a result of her unwitting Internet fame. Unfortunately for the group, most of the Halloween haunt owners will not hire the group without Brandy, who is the name and face that everyone knows. Pressured by the group, Brandy begrudgingly agrees to join the road trip. In return, the group agrees to avoid anything that can be perceived as remotely threatening.
Will this year’s Halloween road trip go smoothly or will tragedy befall the group? And, what became of the Blue Skeletons? The found footage will reveal the truth.
Found Footage Cinematography
The found footage cinematography used in The Houses October Built 2 is more refined and not as gritty as the first installment in the series. The film uses a combination of video cameras including handheld video cameras, smartphone cameras, an aerial drone camera, and body-mounted cameras. The film also includes POV scenes with questionable camera sources (more on this later). As in the first film, The Houses October Built 2 includes daytime and night vision filming.
Similar to the first film, most of the handheld footage is shot by Bobby, Zack, Mikey, and Jeff, and Brandy. During scenes where the characters traverse the various Halloween exhibits, a combination of body-mounted cameras and handheld video cameras are employed.
Interestingly, director Bobby Roe differentiates the footage shot by the protagonists versus the Blue Skeletons by adding a blue hue to the scenes shot by the Blue Skeletons. While this technique is effective, it may come across as a bit too on point for the sophistication of some viewers. The first film in the series contains a good deal of footage shot by the antagonists, but the context of the scenes clearly indicates their source.
The incorporation of drone camera footage into The Houses October Built 2 creates a somewhat larger scope for the film and results in a more narratively shot feel—a decision that is likely related to the fact the filmmakers were aiming for a theatrical release. Preceding The Houses October Built 2, Blair Witch (2016) was perhaps the first found footage film to incorporate drone footage as part of the plot.
The Houses October Built has several inherent filming reasons that span the length of the movie. First and foremost, the protagonists are paid by haunt owners to experience their Halloween attractions first hand and share that experience on social media. As such, the protagonists are contractually obligated to film everything so they can post videos online to help market the haunts they visit. A second filming reason relates to the nefarious hidden motives of the Blue Skeletons who are once again tormenting the band of haunt enthusiasts during their road trip.
Found Footage Purity
The found footage purity measures how accurately a film presents as actual found footage. While The Houses October Built 2 does a good job at maintaining its found footage conceit, the film is not nearly as convincing as its predecessor, The Houses October Built (2014).
The opening three and a half minutes of The Houses October Built 2 comes across as a hybrid of narrative filmmaking and found footage rather than pure found footage. This opening sequence contains several POVs that cannot be logically accounted for by the (seemingly) available fixed video cameras established at the end of The Houses October Built (2014). The duration of the film is (for the most part) found footage, but again, some of the POVs used throughout the film do not logically fit into the context of where the known cameras are located. These inconsistencies may raise questions in the minds of some viewers as to where the cameras are located, which at the very least can be distracting, and at worst may break the found footage illusion the film sets out to create.
Unlike the first film, the sequel includes a wall-to-wall musical score—a pet peeve of many fans of the found footage genre. If the assumption is made that the raw found footage was edited by a third party for entertainment value, then viewers may be more accepting of the background music. Also of note is the blue hue added to the footage shot by the Blue Skeletons. Again, acceptance of this visual effect is predicated on the assumption that the raw footage was edited by a third party and compiled as a film for entertainment purposes. While this intent is not explicitly stated, it can’t be dismissed either.
A large part of the charm behind The Houses October Built 2 is the return of the ensemble cast that fans of the franchise have come to know and love. Similar to the film’s fictional fan-love for “Coffin Girl,” real life found footage fans have waited a full two years to once again embrace the team of Halloween haunt enthusiasts Zack, Bobby, Mikey, Brandy, and Jeff.
Zack Andrews is back as Zack, the de facto leader of the group and arguably the most diehard Halloween haunt enthusiast on the team. Also returning are Bobby Roe as cinematographer Bobby and Mikey Roe as Bobby’s on-screen (and real life) brother Mikey. Jeff Larson reprises his role as team member Jeff. Rounding out the group is the return of Brandy Schaefer as the now-traumatized female member of the team.
While fans are likely to be delighted to see the return of some of their favorite on-screen personalities, the chemistry and charm of the characters aren’t quite up to par with the first film. Perhaps the trauma and aftermath of their shared experience with the Blue Skeletons one year earlier changed the dynamics of the group. Or perhaps the surprise plot twists that reveal themselves towards the end of the film are to blame. Despite these changes in character dynamics, fans of the first film are sure to be swept away once again by the ensemble cast.
Without delving into deep spoilers, The Houses October Built 2 has a very different focus than its predecessor. The protagonists in the first film innocently drive around the country in their RV in search of the scariest haunt. Their adventure brings them into the underbelly of the country where rules, civility, and the protections of law are nonexistent. The characters are fish out of water and ill-equipped to handle the extreme adversity brought by the Blue Skeletons. These are characters viewers can empathize and relate to, making their plight that much more cringe-worthy.
Conversely, in the sequel, these same characters have grown from their collective experience. Now veterans of the Blue Skeletons fiasco, there’s not much that can truly shock them. Consequently, in The Houses October Built 2, their motives shift from innocent exploration to monetizing their fifteen minutes of fame from the Blue Skeletons ordeal. While this shift in behavior, morals, and ethics is believable, it’s a change that goes against the grain of what makes these characters so likable. This film explores the darker side of human nature and the lengths people will go to come out on top. And all the while, the Blue Skeletons are in the background…observing and subtly manipulating.
On the lighter side of the film is the array of Halloween themed attractions the characters visit. In The Houses October Built 2, viewers vicariously take part in a zombie pub crawl, haunted hayride, zombie 5K run, and of course plenty of haunted houses. These visual elements and plot points of the film are core to the franchise’s popularity. The lore of Halloween, haunt attractions, and the whole haunt subculture are a huge draw for horror movie fans and found footage fans alike.
In Summary, while The Houses October Built 2 doesn’t have the novelty of the first film, the second installment is a sequel deserving of the franchise and worth checking out.