Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: The Houses October Built

by Adam Riske
This is the worst movie of 2014.

The Houses October Built is an unholy mess. It is amateurish and uninterested in things such as character development and storytelling. I hate to say this, but it felt like a movie made over weekends by a bunch of Party City employees. On its face a horror movie about finding the most “extreme Haunt” is pretty silly, but a better movie could be made out of this material – which I will suggest later in this review. This is not a good movie or even a nice try. It’s terrible, horrible garbage.

Throughout The Houses October Built, I was frustrated, bored, irritated and incredulous. I wanted to rewrite the script for these people and teach them how to make a better movie. I am purposely going to leave out the names of the cast and crew of the movie because no one should be singled out for this failure. It’s everyone’s fault, and since this may be their only venture into filmmaking, what good is it going to do to drag them through the mud? Oh wait, I just looked up the director (who will remain nameless) on IMDB and saw that this is a feature version of a documentary with the same title he made in 2011. I would much rather see that movie. Maybe this idea works better as a documentary. I don’t know. Apparently it was good enough to get them the resources to make this thing.

The plot in brief: Five friends venture off in an RV to track down the most extreme underground Haunts. Their search leads them down a dark path where the Haunt comes to them.
Therein lies the first problem of this movie: why the hell are these characters doing this? The movie takes the found footage approach but it’s never clear what the motivations are of any of the five members of the group. Are they filming this for a website? For their own enjoyment? Are they filmmakers? Character motivation is important in horror movies and I couldn’t become interested in any of these people because I had no idea why they were doing what they were doing or even who they were. There’s a guy with a beard, a girl and three other white guys. That’s as much as you learn about these folks. The beard guy enjoys drinking, but so do the other four members of the group, so he doesn’t even alone have that as a character trait. Fuck, movie, you ask me to spend 91 minutes with these people; at least tell me who they are! Gene Siskel had a quote: “Is the movie that I am watching as interesting as a documentary of the same actors having lunch together?” This is the first time I can ask myself the same question and say neither would work. It’s a draw, and that’s because this movie and the actors involved are void of interest.

The movie also is not telling a story. It’s telling a plot. These people are looking for an extreme Haunt (as opposed to a Mickey Mouse Haunt), then the Haunt finds them and that’s the end of the movie. That’s a scenario, not a story. It’s not enough for a feature. This is a short. The movie is 60 minutes too long.
All of this would be fine if The Houses October Built was at least scary, but it’s not. The scare sequences are poorly shot with details that would be scary in the background zoomed in on so we, as the audience, are sure they are not missed. The rest of the compositions that I can recall are either straight-forward or low angle shots of Haunt employees walking towards the camera, which could be scary in person but does not register on film that way. In fact, the scariest point of the movie is when a Haunter in a clown costume yells at the group for trespassing and filming where they shouldn’t be. When your horror movie’s scariest moment is an argument, you have a shitty horror movie.

This movie is so lazy and stupid. It doesn’t even have a theme. It’s not about sex, gender, politics, money, altruism, death, loneliness, friendship, work, our choices, perception, love, happiness, responsibility, delusion, family, class, panic, joy, fear, dreams, failure, altering your own destiny or saving others. This movie is a fucking miracle. How does it not have a theme? I know Patrick loves The Funhouse (I do not), but The Houses October Built makes The Funhouse look magnificent in comparison.

The Houses October Built is also missing out on an opportunity to say something about haunted houses in general (maybe the documentary does; I don’t know, I haven’t seen it). But the feature version of this story has no interest in exploring why people visit haunted houses every year. I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s not always the same reason – i.e. to be scared. I admit that part of the reason I enjoy haunted houses is to externalize the anxieties that I feel every day. It’s a release and so are movies, but this movie does not provide that catharsis. Before I go off point, the real reason I love haunted houses is because of the production value of the Haunt. When done extremely well (such as the now-defunct Eli Roth’s Goretorium), you feel as if you’re walking through the set of a big budget movie, which is quite cool. But The Houses October Built is so cheaply put together we don’t even get the benefit of seeing a freaky, supernatural looking Haunt.
One way this movie could have worked better (mind you, I don’t think it would have made it work completely) is if it had a cop-out ending. Sounds weird, right? As it is, The Houses October Built is a death march with no surprises or even inventive kills (which is also a bit unforgivable). If this movie took the approach of April Fool’s Day (a movie I don’t enjoy even a little), it actually could have been a neat twist. You trick yourself into thinking this is a Haunt gone rogue and then SURPRISE! it turns out this is just a regular Haunt with an enormous build up. Would that have delivered blue balls? Sure, but it would have had something to say at least as a movie, which is that people do most of the work for haunted houses in their minds by building them up so much when they look to be “extremely” scared. See, I can make a better movie. It would still be a bad movie, but it would be better than The Houses October Built.

I apologize for the unconventional review, but I honestly don’t know how else to write about The Houses October Built without all of these digressions and tangents. This movie is a nightmare for film lovers and horror fans. It has no instinctive feeling for quality. It glorifies mindlessness. It is the death of cinema. Fuck, I need a Tylenol.

32 comments:

  1. I'm not sure why you have to take shots at The Funhouse to prove you didn't like The Houses October Built...

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    1. Yah, I tried to ignore that part - eagerly anticipating my copy of The Funhouse (and Sleepaway Camp finally!) to arrive from Scream Factory today!

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    2. I really really love the funhouse.

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    3. I so wish I left out that sentence. It wasn't even necessary. What was I thinking?

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    4. Bah, don't sweat it buddy - us The Funhouse fans have broad shoulders.

      Also, I really want to watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes again.

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  2. Absolutely dead on, Adam. I watched this for SMM and it's awful to the point of being insulting.

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  3. No need to apologize, Adam - great rant/review! I actually like the idea of an April Fool's Day-style ending - no one's dead afterall, it was just a very convincing haunted house - BUT the last guy doesn't realize it until it's too late and really kills an employee or two and he goes nuts and gets carted off to a looney bin - blueballs solved and almost certainly a better movie than this one.

    Reminds me of an idea I had for a real haunted house - it's pretty tame but then at some point someone gets "fake" blood on them and everything stops, the lights come up and a panicking actor says it's actually real blood and he has AIDS and that they should go to a hospital and then a few days later you call em up and tell em it was just a joke. Great idea or the greatest idea?

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    1. Your haunted house idea scares the sh*t out of me.

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    2. If you want to see what that would be like, check out this clip from the brilliant Nathan For You.

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    3. Remind me never to piss Sol off.

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    4. Oh shit, I pulled a George Harrison/"My Sweet Lord" - I actually saw that before (the great Nathan Fielder made his start on Halifax's own "This Hour Has 22 Minutes") - apparently it wasn't my idea! Though to be fair AIDS is way funnier than Klein's Disease or whatever, amiright guys?

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    5. Make it more topical, Sol: Ebola.

      I am a terrible person.

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    6. http://youtu.be/612DEoTFH0o

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    7. My grandmother has ebola you son of a bitch! No wait, nevermind, it's non-Hodgkins lymphoma, we're cool.

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    8. Can I just say that I love that a review of the (apparently) worst movie of the year has spiraled into a discussion about diseases? Really manages to capture the feeling that this movie seems to evoke, like it's preferable to have a disease than to sit down to watch it.

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    9. Bromley is watching it right now. I don't know why. As revenge, I'm going to watch Leprechaun Origins.

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    10. So far it's exactly like The Funhouse.

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    11. Just got the blu-ray btw - I immediately reversed the cover and realized it's one that had really made an impression on me at the video store when I was a kid - I remember thinking "Pay to get in. Pray to get out." was f'ing brilliant!

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  4. Oohh im with you with April fools day. I watched last week for #ScaryMovieMonth and it really dragged. I remember liking it at one point but not the last viewing. You touched a nerve by bringing up Funhouse. Lol.

    Im really happy to read your review. The poster artwork looks kinda cool and also from the producers of other well known films. Its shows the difference in Directed by and Produced by are not the same thing and its an easy trick to fall for when only looking at only the cover artwork

    I guess I'll keep away from this turkey. Cheers for saving me 91 mins

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  5. There's actually something worse this year than I, Frankenstein? The hell you say.

    Thanks for the warning though, as I almost watched this on the weekend, but went with Wrong Turn 6 instead. Now I can officially say I've watched more movies in the Wrong Turn series then I have Kubrick films. Which probably means no one should ever listen to a word I say about movies.

    I kinda liked Wrong Turn too... it wasn't good, but at least they tried.

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  6. Put that on the poster

    " It wasn't good but at least they tried"

    Alex Hope, #Fthismovie 

    Hehe

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  7. Wow. I just watched this and I just don't understand how you can hate it this much. I'm sorry I keep bringing this up but I enjoyed this a hell of a lot more then House of the Devil. I tried watching it a couple of weeks ago but goddammit that movie is boring. I know the end has some fucked up shit but I just can't make it there. Funhouse is something I have to watch again but I didn't really enjoy that one either. I feel like you are pretty dead on with most of your reviews but I'm just not with you on your horror reviews. I'm not sure if that's true since I'm only comparing a couple of movies. I liked this one. I'm with you on the ending. I wish they would've done it differently. Oh well, nobody's perfect...accept for me. I'm perfect.

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    1. I'd be surprised if anyone agreed with me all the time. I'm glad you liked this movie, truly. It just riled me up. Interesting that we disagree on horror despite both loving the genre. I guess it just shows that people go to it for different things/react to it in different ways etc. For example, I really like horror movies the most when they're morality tales which I think House of the Devil is or Carnival of Souls (which is my favorite horror movie).

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    2. It's not a great movie but I feel like it had a sense of dread. From the beginning, it felt like it was heading somewhere dark. If you didn't feel that, the movie wasn't going to do anything for you. Did you see the Den? That movie doesn't get a lot of love but it freaked me out. With found footage, you're either in or out and it sounds like it's not your cup of tea. Again, there are plenty of terrible ones but I really enjoy some of them(Paranormal Activity 1 & 3, Blair Witch, The Haunting of Deborah Logan, Rec, The Sacrament). I know Patrick really does not like them but I find some of them really effective.

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    3. I have not seen The Den. I'll check it out.

      I'm mixed on found footage. There's many I don't like but there's some I have really dug like Blair Witch, Cloverfield, Afflicted and REC. The Sacrament I'm back and forth on but it's very effective at being horrifying. Hell I even like As Above So Below.Are you going to see The Gallows?

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    4. I hadn't heard of it but I just watched the trailer. I think it could be good. I really liked the girl doing Smells like Teen Spirit from the trailer. A good song from a trailer always hooks me in. What about M. Night Shyamalan new found footage the Visit? I'm the only person on the planet who loves the Happening...

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    5. I want to see The Visit. I'm still rooting for M Night. The Happening is very "enjoyable".

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    6. Me Too, ive not yet given up on M Night, hes made films I love

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    7. You liked this film?Im watching it,as I write this (it's on pause)but I thought "it must be me" who wasn't "getting it" since I read a lot of favorable reviews of this ..........film.It seems so amateur that any kid with a phone could have shot it.But if you liked it,and you're perfect,it really must be me.Ill get back to the movie and hopefully start to see what,I so far,have been missing.

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  8. I'm so perfect, I said accept when I meant except...brilliant.

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  9. I know I'm writing this well after your review but I just got around to watching it, was not on my list just happened upon it. But I have to say that when I read what you said about the ending I flipped! When the movie was over, and 90 mins. of my life was wasted, I thought to myself the exact same thing. I mean the movie was awful but if they would have at least made the ending a gotcha ending it wouldn't have been AS bad. My idea was to bury all of them except allow one of them the ability to escape from the coffin and dig out the rest. Then have the last scene be of a few of them dusting themselves off as others are still shaking and wondering if it was a hoax or if there's more to come. They never explained why they were making the documentary short of one of them saying he was a film school drop out, so I don't really give a shit what they do with the footage afterwards. Perhaps put it on the You Tubs as found footage for views or some stupid shit, whatever, who cares.

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