Everyone loves a good horror sequel, right? Well, truth be told, I never actually saw The Houses October Built when it was released in 2014, despite it being one of the most talked about independent horror films of the year. Sometimes there are just too many titles out there, and I don’t have the time or the money to get them all. So, to start off this review, I want to assure you that The Houses October Built 2 is extremely easy to follow if you missed the first installment in the series like I did. It picks up immediately where the previous movie ends, with ‘Coffin Girl’ still inside her prison, and makes sure to elaborate on key plot elements from the 2014 feature before heading into somewhat new territory. It’s a year later and Brandy has become a viral celebrity after the video of her abduction was uploaded to social media. Zack and Mikey are still doing their thing, exploring popular haunts across the globe, but they’re looking for something to really put them on the map again. Together, they convince a doubtful Brandy to rejoin the group, and they scour the nation for the next big extreme haunt. However, unbeknownst to them, signs of The Blue Skeleton are popping up all around them, and this Halloween will prove to be their most psychologically damaging, frightening adventure yet.
Now, as I stated above, I went into my viewing of The Houses October Built 2 with no idea what was in store for me. I started to lean in the direction of negativity when I realized this movie fell into the territory of found footage, a style of film that I’m really not a fan of. But, despite my reservations, I think that particular style fit what the cast and crew were trying to do here. The Houses October Built 2 is a tremendous showcase of real, independent productions around the country; from haunted houses, to escape rooms, to zombie runs. Showcasing all the hyped up craziness in this format allowed for a very organic, homegrown feeling that was definitely more in the realm of documentary than found footage. Yes, there is a difference, and of course this title veers off that path in its second half. It allows the viewer to explore and experience the true essence of horror and Halloween all year round from the comfort of their own home. If there’s one reason why this feature film is worth purchasing – it’s that one! Writer/director Bobby Roe and writer/producer Zack Andrews really have a hit horror staple on their hands with this idea, and I genuinely hope it manages to expand into a trilogy in 2019.
I also love that The Houses October Built 2 is as sequel-ish as a sequel can get. Not only did the entire production team return – including Roe, Andrews, producer Steven Schneider (Paranormal Activity, Insidious), cinematographer Andrew Strahorn (Hostel 3) and editor Cesar Martinez (“Unsolved Mysteries”) – but the lead actors from the previous movie reprised their roles as well. Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Mikey Roe, Bobby Roe and Jeff Larson are back in action, better than ever, and ready to scare the pants off you… if they survive to the end of the movie! Although, to keep things fresh, Ricardo Sanchez has joined as a second cinematographer, and Bob Ballou, Lucas Godfrey (set dresser from “The Walking Dead”), Margee Kerr, Jacquie Lantern and Branden Smith grace the various haunt locations in front of the camera. While all of the lead and supporting cast members did a fantastic job, I actually found myself most moved by the extreme haunt workers and escape room participants. These performers, who go mostly unpaid, are the backbone of Halloween and I’m so excited that they were able to showcase their skills for the world to see in The Houses October Built 2. Most of them probably wished for such a big accomplishment like being featured in a major movie from RLJE Films, and I’m glad that their wish finally came true.
The Houses October Built 2 is modern, relying on viral videos, gross out effects, and various attractions as its biggest selling point. I was envious that they were able to visit so many haunts during the Halloween season of that year, but I was looking for a little more bite. As much as I enjoyed the documentary style of the film, I was expecting some sort of real life threat or building narrative lead by The Blue Skeleton. This happens about 75% through the movie and it does so fluidly and gracefully. After some mild interactions and intense moments in the haunts, the true terror begins and plunges into the abyss quite quickly. I know that there are venues around the country where you need to sign a waver to participate, but this was something else entirely. This is where the suspense comes in. This is when the viewer will stop feeling the joys of Halloween, and feel… something much worse. Something agitating, claustrophobic, and as close to Hell as the human brain can manage. And this all could have been avoided if Zack, Mikey, Bobby and Jeff listened to Brandy’s realistic reservations. Now, they’re around to see that The Blue Skeleton is more than a haunt. The Blue Skeleton is more than a leader. The Blue Skeleton is a way of life.
Throw in a double twist ending that I definitely didn’t see coming and The Houses October Built 2 is a stellar motion picture and a worthy horror sequel. It completely defied my expectations and kept me enthralled from start to finish. Imagine Entertainment and RLJE Films are releasing this baby to Blu-ray and DVD on January 2, 2018 and it’s coming to you highly recommended. What it lacks in blockbuster attempts and balls to the walls gore, it more than it makes up for in heart, presentation and spirit. It’s a film that grows on you. Fans of the first film are going to enjoy it (I think), and new fans like myself are going to get a kick out of it, too. Experience the madness next week! Final Score: 8 out of 10.