Oct 18, 2019


The Houses October Built seemed like an unlikely candidate for a franchise starter. It was a reasonably well made found footage horror film back during the era when audiences still cared about those. It provided a handful of creepy moments, but honestly, overall, it was kind of a failure as a straight-up horror narrative. The five haunt-hopping characters in the film play fictionalized versions of themselves — they’re real people who traveled the country to document the various haunts and celebrations that spring up during the Halloween season. Personally, this is why I found enjoyment in the first film, and why I was able to mine some from its sequel.

Again, like the former, The Houses October Built 2, as a horror film, is a failure. It’s just not scary at all, and unlike the first one where there was an attempt to build suspense and slowly increase the terror, this time around, there’s very little of that. It plays out much like the first one — our characters traipse around the country in an RV, go to different haunts, and every once in a while they’ll hear from a haunt worker that there’s one haunt in particular they’ve definitely got to check out. Last year it was the Blue Skeleton, and this year, it’s Hell Bent.

You know that thing about being doomed to repeat history if you don’t learn from it?

Welcome to the sequel.

Again, like the first, the sequel is a documentary masquerading as a horror film. And I don’t mean that it’s a fake documentary or a mockumentary presenting itself as reality. Granted, a certain percentage of the film is fictionalized. But much of the footage captured is from real haunts and of real haunt actors, and this is why horror fans tend to look at these films as “boring” and “slow.” They’re not wrong to feel like that, because the films are definitely marketed as your typical found-footage horror scarefests; trickery is involved in getting people to watch.

The sequel throws a bit of variety into the batch, this time adding a Zombie 5K Run and even a trip to an “R-Rated” haunt, where its performers use ungodly amounts of profanity and walk around topless. “This way, assholes,” the haunt host says to our characters at one point, beckoning them into the entrance of the haunt, which offered a legit guffaw on my part.

The synopsis explains the rationale behind why these characters would ever go back out on the road after almost dying the last time as the characters “facing their fears,” but really, Brandy (Brandy Schaeffer) is the only one doing that. The other four members — all men — are doing it entirely for the money, as their notoriety has made them hot commodities in the haunt industry. Not only that, not a single one of them seems bothered by their experiences last time. One of them even admits, “I had a blast last year.” It’s…odd.

One thing The Houses October Built 2 has done to improve on its predecessor is its photography, mostly in the form of some beautiful sweeping drone footage that helps to capture very expansive looks at the different places they visit around the country. It’s most impressive during the Zombie 5K Run, whose grounds cover several acres and with very impressive set designs featuring demolished buildings and parking garages, some of which is flooded and dotted with submerged cars. But there are different forms of footage on display, from standard digital camera to phone footage.

Cautiously, I would recommend this sequel if you love Halloween, and its ambience, celebrations, and the different attractions out in the world. If you want to relive your own times spent at haunted houses or hayrides or Halloween parades but you’ve grown too curmudgeonly to leave the house anymore, these films do serve a purpose. Basically, if you’re here for the horror, look elsewhere. If you’re here to celebrate Halloween vicariously through our characters, “This way, assholes.”

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