What I'm Watching: The Houses October Built
Oh geeze, I haven't done a Trisklet in over a month. I am a bad webmonkey. I'll try and be better in the new year. Even though I've got a bunch of leftovers from 2014 to get through, I thought I'd kick off 2015 with the most recent movie I've watched.
Bonus because it's also fresh in my brain place.
That movie would be the found footage flick, The Houses October Built. We follow a group of five friends who decide to go on an exploration of haunted houses (Or haunts) across the southern US, in the week leading up to Halloween.
That's actually super refreshing, and actually a GOOD and sensible use of found footage. "Hey, let's go on a road trip, and film it!" and then shit happens? Yeah, that's the second perfect setup for a found footage film. For the other great example of a perfect setup, there's Grave Encounters.
So, the actual plot of the movie is actually really slow, if you sit back and look at it. Nothing really major happens until the second half, and that's being generous. A more accurate point would probably be the last 20 to 30 minutes.
But oh, those haunted houses. That gives them perfect moments to keep things going, and just as the character stuff in the RV needs a break, the group hits one up and there's some good adventures in there.
Now, you know they're just haunted houses, and there's no REAL scares, but if you're along with the characters' journey, you end up enjoying the frenetic exploration of the locations. Mixed in with those trips, they nudge the plot along as some of the characters are kinda jerky to the people working the haunts, make fun of them, and hunt around for the mythical extreme haunt, the Blue Skeleton.
While they search, they also run afoul of a few of the workers, which eventually comes around to bite them in the ass, as these familiar, and terrifying, faces keep popping up no matter where they go. There's equal harassment being done by both parties, so while the main group does start to come dangerously close to making the viewers not like them, they never QUITE cross that line. For the most part, you don't want these people to die.
One of the best parts, making this movie stand out from the rest of the found footage pile, is that they outright state that some of the scenes were filmed by the workers at the haunts, such as when they break into the RV to mess with the group, and once the kidnapping starts. It breaks up the action, and allows for moments where our protagonists actually put down the damned cameras, the biggest problem of the subgenre.
I really enjoyed this flick, and that first half can even just be taken as just a genuine exploration of the budding haunted house industry that explodes every Halloween. The fictionalised horror make things all the more fun, and if anything, would make going to a haunted house THAT much more terrifying. I'm sure things like this DON'T happen, but sharks also aren't a bit problem, but we all know what Jaws did for those animals.
The ending has been a sticking point for a lot of people, as they usually are with found footage horror flicks. I've complained about them plenty. Just...how do you end these things? But I didn't mind the ending here. It's...definitively open ended.
So many FF horrors end with vague, VAGUE endings, where the filming just STOPS because the Monster of the Week has appeared and killed the people holding the cameras, and what do you do then? Fortunately, the killers in this case have cameras of their own, and are as obsessed as anyone else over filming everything, so we get to go a little further.
The movie still ends pretty vaguely, but way more clearly than normally. There is enough room for an interpretation I *really* like, and y'all should back out right the heck now, because here come the spoilers.
We close with the group being buried alive in coffins and screaming for their lives, after being tormented and chased around a run down home, and transported on a bus, and being generally terrified.
But...these people were looking for the most extreme haunt. They found it. So...what if instead of dying in those coffins, they were let out, and the haunters all had a good laugh at how pants-wettingly terrified the five friends were? We never ACTUALLY see anyone die.
It would be perfectly in line with what they were looking for, and I would've liked to see them end up that way. A great kind of "be careful what you wish for" tale. Which the movie still *is*. The best argument for not having that ending is because it would've been anticlimactic to bury everyone, then let them go and smile and say "Just kidding!" and credits roll.
But because the movie is left open ended, but dark, you can absolutely go that route with an interpretation of what happens next.
All in all, Houses may have taken a while to get to the real horror, but it kept things interesting enough with good characters, a sense of humour, and a unique story that really made *sense* to tell as found footage, and used the trappings of that to good effect.
This is definitely a recommendation. And y'all know I don't recommend found footage flicks lightly, since they can be so problematic with their storytelling.