Movie Review: Houses October Built (2014)

real documentary about 5 friends who set out to uncover the culture of underground haunted houses. Brandy Schaefer, Mikey Roe, Bobby Roe, Zack Andrews and Jeff Larsen are longtime friends who set out in an RV to 9 different haunts. Interviews are not scripted or manipulated in anyway, and the truth is more horrifying than the lie in this flick. People running haunted horror events notoriously don’t run background checks… some of the things participants say are down right deviant and terrifying. There are multiple actual news reports related about people dying in haunted houses while pranking their friends and no one knows until long after the night’s over.

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The crew travels across Texas in search of the most frightening events October has to offer. Along the way, they hit up all types of attractions (including zombie paintball) …and then they go in search of the Holy Grail of underground haunts but get more than they bargained for from locals.

Interestingly enough, this film was fascinating on it’s own. It won FearNET’s Shocker Award in 2011. Sadly, this project fell by the wayside for a while. The producers behind the Insidious films and Paranormal Activity decided that what it needed was a little mockumentary flair.

…and it works.

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I don’t know that it needed it; but it is well acted enough that the scripted portions fit well with the various interviews, news reports and first person filmings in dingy fake blood coated halls. It adds another dimension to the film that I hadn’t seen coming. I’m also not totally clear when it started. Brandy, the lone female, has an altercation with male hillbillies in a public bathroom. Mikey has an argument with locals that gets them run out of town. They pick up a bizarre hitch hiker. These brief elements break up the chatty drives in the sun on the long trek from destination to destination. So when things get more serious… it’s difficult to know what to believe. Is this a practical joke? Have they found the haunt they are looking for? Or are they facing deranged lunatics?

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A great look at extreme haunted houses and intense and escalating subculture surrounding haunted events …with a little Hollywood panache.

5/5

This film is out in select theaters and on itunes on Friday 10/10.

Brandy Schaefer will be on WCUW’s Radio Of Horror on Sunday.

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Movie Review #12- Insidious: Chapter 2

(zero-to-mild spoilers)

Did I see the first one? No.

Did it matter? No.

There was enough info to go on since the movie picks up RIGHT AFTER the first, with Renai talking to the police, so it gives you a refresher on what’s happening without infodumping all over the place. The police, obviously, say “so your husband went into the spirit world to rescue your son who was in a coma? You know that’s not a real thing, right?”

Actually, that’s not the first scene, the first scene takes place in 1986, with Josh as a young child being put into a trance by Elise and communicating with a ghost, the ghost of an old woman, who’s creeping everyone out.

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Her ghost, along with a serial killer’s ghost looking for a host body to reclaim his lost youth are terrorizing the Lamberts. The ghosts primarily haunt the children while Renai is left to wonder about the questionable state of her husband and run around wondering if ghosts are trying to steal her baby, hearing singing on baby monitors, haunted toys, someone playing the piano. It plays into the “a mother’s worst fear” thing. Fortunately Renai is smart. Josh’s mom, Lorraine, is smart, too and contacts Elise’s cohorts to help defeat the evil ghosts. Carl, Specs, Tucker and Lorraine lead an investigation that takes them to a haunted abandoned hospital (and a house where the serial killer used to live, which is still there, and still has little kid stuff. That’s not so logical.) While they’re hunting down the source, Renai is getting creeped out and Josh is going bad from the inside out. They decide that they are in over their heads and need to contact Elise for help.

There are a few moments that made Dr. Chris yelp like a frightened tween (and the theater was full of actual tweens, since this is rated PG13).

There’s layers, there’s interesting filming tactics (GhostHunters/Paranormal activity style filming here and there. Parts that look studio but aren’t touched up.) there’s some genuine laughs…

Mostly from these two:

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who run around dressed like a couple of GeekSquad CSAs. Their clumsy courage through humor reminded me of why I would never be a ghost hunter.  I would be screaming at everyone: “I HATE IT HERE AND I WANT TO LEAVE!” because they faced some creepy, corpse-y stuff.. and I was scared.

Dalton was a pretty gutsy kid.

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Overall it was relatively clever, a few genuine surprise shocks, a decent amount of tension and a couple good jokes.

BUT I have no idea why they had to make the serial killer dress in drag. This whole “A man in a dress must be psycho and dangerous!” trope must be shot dead. STOP DOING THAT it would have been scary without a wedding dress. NO REALLY, KNOCK IT OFF.

Side note, there’s also this one part where Josh/Parker is explaining the “the dead want what we have, they want life” HOW MANY HORROR MOVIES HAVE SAID THIS?

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Useless information recall: Christina Milian said it circa 2006 in Pulse “They want what they don’t have anymore. They want life.”

I like my horror movie characters to exist in a world that has horror movies, thanks. Aside from that, ageism takes a holiday, moms kick butt, and a shadowy spooky plot that sets up a potential third movie (I actually hate when movies do that)

3 STARS