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[Review] ‘The Houses October Built 2’ Buries So Much Franchise Potential

[Review] ‘The Houses October Built 2’ Buries So Much Franchise Potential

With haunted attractions being taken to the next level in recent years, immersing thrill seekers so deep into those terrifying worlds that the lines between fiction and reality have begun to blur, it was only a matter of time before a horror movie came along and asked the question: “How much do you REALLY want to be scared?

That movie was 2014’s The Houses October Built, a standout found footage film directed by Bobby Roe. A mash-up of real haunted attraction footage and fictional terror, the film centered on a group of friends on a road trip to find the scariest haunts in the world, ultimately ending up inside of their own horror story. It was a hit with Halloween lovers in particular, tapping into the thrill of the haunt experience like no horror film before it.

The Houses October Built found itself such a sizable fanbase that a sequel was announced for Halloween season release just a few months ago, coming out of nowhere at the time. Again directed by Bobby Roe, The Houses October Built 2 reunites the same five characters from the first film, who managed to survive the events that seemed to have left a couple of them dead and the others buried alive… soon to die themselves.

Wait… what?!

We learn in the sequel that nobody actually died in the first film; rather, everything we saw was part of the immersive haunt experience put together by the mysterious organization known as Blue Skeleton. Footage of their terrifying experience has gone viral, and the gang’s newfound fame in the haunt community sends them back out on the road one year later to cash in on their internet fame and make profitable appearances at haunts across the country.

Of course, they inevitably come face to face with Blue Skeleton once more.

The organic charm of The Houses October Built is mostly absent from The Houses October Built 2, which chooses to rehash the storyline from the first film rather than expand upon any of the interesting threads that were laid out in it. Rather than digging deeper into Blue Skeleton, Roe has decided to again put the focus on all of the same characters and put them through the same motions, resulting in a sequel that never quite manages to justify its own existence.

The first hour of The Houses October Built 2 plays out like a haunt travelogue you’d find on YouTube, with the friends hitting up various attractions across the country. To the film’s credit, Roe expands upon the first one by visiting bigger and better attractions than before, including a zombie pub crawl, haunted hayride and zombie 5K race… but he seems to forget that he’s making a horror film along the way. It becomes clear early on that the gang is again being pursued by Blue Skeleton, but it’s not until the final 20 minutes that anything resembling an actual narrative storyline, or a horror movie, begins to take shape.

Roe spends much of the runtime building to the characters’ arrival at “Hellbent,” a next-level attraction that they repeatedly hear about during their travels. You quickly get the sense that nothing much is going to happen until they get to that final destination… and nothing really does. Furthermore, by rewriting the events of the first film and telling us right off the bat that Blue Skeleton doesn’t actually kill its victims, all tension is completely robbed from the proceedings. You know it’s all just a game, so it’s hard to really care.

Worse yet, Roe manages to make nearly all of the main characters extremely unlikable, a side effect of him struggling to find a way to make sense of them all coming back. Brandy, the lone female in the group, is still deeply traumatized from the previous year’s events, but her four male friends continually disregard her feelings and treat her like crap so they can make a quick buck off their viral fame; since she’s the real star of the viral video, it’s her that the purveyors of haunted attractions want at their events.

Whereas the characters were a whole lot of fun to hang around in the first film, this continual disregard of Brandy’s well-being accomplishes little more than making you hate the people you had a blast with just three years prior. They almost become the villains of the film, cruelly lying to Brandy and intentionally dragging her deeper and deeper into an experience that they know full well is going to further scar her.

So, is this a found footage movie, like the first one? Mostly, yeah. Roe adds a drone camera into the mix to expand the scope, allowing for (overdone) overhead shots that attempt to make The Houses October Built 2 feel more like a traditional film. And he cheats a great deal along the way, often arming characters with cameras for no real reason and sometimes even filming scenes in the POV style when there seemingly isn’t even a character present who’s holding a camera. It’s clear he was constricted by the found footage format in this one, and he struggles to break out of that box.

On the whole, The Houses October Built 2 comes off like one big struggle to expand upon a story that was never intended to continue past the first film. In order to continue the story in a believable way, Roe was forced to mess around with what we *thought* we saw in the first one, which weirdly has the worst possible effect: the sequel manages to hurt the first film, retroactively making it something less interesting than it was 3 years ago.

And after the final act plays out, it’s clear that The Houses October Built 2 has also tanked the franchise potential that Roe and the team so effectively paved the way for back in 2014. What was once an interesting and terrifying world is reduced to total silliness; and a final coda at the very end is likely to make you roll your eyes into the back of your head.

But hey, at least it leaves you with a list of crazy haunts to check out for yourself. The zombie 5K race, in particular, looks like a bucket list item for horror fans.



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COMMENTS

16 Comments
  • Briand

    That sounds really shit. Too bad. I loved the first one. I was looking forward for the pt2.

  • Bart Crowe

    So it’s no Grave Encounters 2?

  • Necro

    As much as I liked the first one, this isn’t really surprising to hear. To be honest I never liked the premise for this to begin with. I figured I’d hear about this falling short in terms of story, but not this short. Don’t get me wrong this sucks to hear, but not surprising. I’ll still check it out for myself, but it definitely fell to the bottom of my list.

  • Eric

    Downer, I was so looking forward to this as I thought the first one was great.
    I’ll still check it out, but it sounds like they got lazy and took the easy option to just cash in…like so many others before them. Oh well.

  • C-3PO’s

    Meta viral sequels ala Book of Shadows and Grave Encounters 2 seem to be the popular route these days.

  • Cheddar Hayes

    Same movie directed by Wingard would get at least 4 skulls on this site.

  • Saturn

    Well I thought the original was shite,and hoped the sequel would be better – but I reckon I’ll pass on it.

  • Matt Miller

    This is exactly what I tought of the first one. No clear storyline, it was just following these awful and boring characters only to become a horror movie in the last 20 minutes. One of the only movies I couldn’t watch entirely (this year The Unkindness of Ravens was another one). I’ll pass this one too.

  • Marla

    Now this looks like it may be worth watching.

  • Evil One

    I agree completely with this review! The movie was so bad that it hurts the first one.

  • Daucus Karota

    Wow, totally disagree. I thought it was fairly clear that during the final sequences of the first film, Blue Skeleton was in control of what you were seeing. In other words, it became a haunt that the viewer was now experiencing. There is the possibility that what we are seeing is real, but in the spirit of what the film is about, of course its not. That was the point!

    And I liked going on another haunted attraction road trip. Weird that the reviewer says it lacked the charm of the first one, yet it treads the same ground of being a travel logue of haunts.

    There is quite more depth to what is going on in HOB2 than this review lets on. One aspect of this is that most people they meet along the way know who they are and treat them like celebrities, which plays into an important plot piece. I guess if you have expectations of it being different characters or focusing on the trials and tribulations of working for Blue Skeleton, you’ll be put off by this.

    For anyone who liked part one, I’d suggest watching this and making up your own mind.

  • Skyline

    The first movie was a piece of shit, no reason why this one isn’t even more of a piece of shit. Stupid honkies acting like girls gone wild looking for haunted houses. Whitest stupid movie i ever seen. It’s like a wannabee horror version of friends. Complete garbage.

  • John Rivet

    This review is so wrong, this was a great film. Just as good as the first.

  • Just saw it, I agree on the characters being absolute bellends, they were the real villains of the movie. I called the twist early on but still couldn’t really tell just how authentic Blue Skeleton were until the very end.

    I thought it was a fairly fitting ending and a decent enough sequel. Was expecting the typical “everyone is brutally murdered and the killers go out to find new prey” ending, but didn’t get it, so it could’ve been worse.

    If you liked the first and haven’t seen it yet it’s definitely worth a go.

    • Evan3

      What in the world is a “bellend?”

      • Haha, sorry, it’s British slang, it’s the end of a penis

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