05th Oct2015

‘The Houses of Halloween’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson, Chloë Crampton | Written by Bobby Roe, Zack Andrews, Jason Zada | Directed by Bobby Roe

HOH-porcelain

Beneath the fake blood and cheap masks of countless haunted house attractions across the country, there are whispers of truly terrifying alternatives. Looking to find an authentic, blood-curdling good fright for Halloween, five friends set off on a road trip in an RV to track down these underground Haunts. Just when their search seems to reach a dead end, strange and disturbing things start happening and it becomes clear that the Haunt has come to them…

I hate found footage movies. Scratch that. I fucking loathe found footage movies, with every bone in my body. The trope is tired, played out and the LAZIEST way to make a horror film. Period. Since the format exploded with The Blair Witch Project, filmmakers (and non-filmmakers) everywhere have used found footage in an effort to make horror movies on the cheap and take shortcuts in terms of plot, script and scares. However, no matter how hard I wish the genre to disappear up its own camera lense, it just keeps coming back. Thankfully – and even though I hate the conceit – for every dozen pieces of found footage tripe that hit DVD (for that’s where ALL these films end up these days if they’re not pumped out by the likes of Blumhouse or are a Paranormal Activity sequel) we get one good one. Case in point: The Houses of Halloween, aka The Houses October Built.

Shot in a faux-documentary, verite style, The Houses of Halloween successfully blurs the line between reality and fiction and that’s why this particular found-footage movie succeeds where many don’t. It’s because the audience is never quite sure if the participants in the film, beyond the core cast, are actors and actresses or merely members of the public being interviewed solely for the purposes of this movie. Reportedly a LOT of the interviews are real – which is more terrifying than anything traditional horror movies can scare up; director/star Bobby Roe and his crew certainly found some of the creepiest people they possibly could to interview!

And that’s the thing… We’re never really sure what is real and what is not. Combine this with the found-footage directorial style, and the audience ends up questioning everything they are seeing. This “confusion” only helps build the tension – after all, people attend these Halloween “haunts” to be confused, to be scared. And The Houses of Halloween perfectly reflects that. Which is why, when the film does switch to the fictional aspect of its story, it still remains TOTALLY believable… and totally terrifying. You’ve seen interviews with strange, and more importantly real, people – so it’s not such a stretch to believe that some people take working at Halloween haunts to certain “extremes”.

I will admit that recently found-footage has been used to great effect as parts of other movies (in films such as Demonic), but I don’t think there has been a found-footage film as successful as The Houses of Halloween in a looong time. It even made a believer out of this found footage skeptic!

The Houses of Halloween, aka The Houses October Built, is out now on DVD from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment

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