The Houses October Built (2014)
Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman(Release Date: January 6, 2015 - Currently a Best Buy Exclusive)
"The Houses October Built" is more notable for its unique genesis than for the film's end result. In 2011, a group of friends and acquaintances got together to make a documentary as they traveled across the country during the month of October exploring haunted attractions. Now, a few years later, the same filmmakers have been cast in a decidedly embellished recreation that imagines what their journey might have been like had it gone terribly wrong. Shot under the visage of their raw footage, the film weaves real interviews and archival material with a fictional narrative that takes them on a road trip through Texas and Louisiana as they seek to explore the one-of-a-kind milieu of haunts and the elusive "extreme" Halloween attractions that allegedly take things one step further in terrifying their patrons.
Directed by Bobby Roe, "The Houses October Built" is interesting for what it is, but not nearly as successful as the documentary that inspired it. In attempting to twist the plot into a horror picture where the protagonists are stalked across the southern United States by possibly homicidal haunt show performers, Roe comes up with some unsettling moments (like one involving a girl in a porcelain doll mask, and another with an axe-wielding bunnyman), but nothing that is truly frightening. It is clear every step of the way that the whole thing is a manipulation of reality, and the lack of focus as it leads into its climactic payoff is glaring. There are a number of really cool and original ways the film could have ended, and Roe misses these opportunities over and over. This is a somewhat tiresome found-footage excursion admirable in how it came together, and disappointing that it couldn't have added up to more than it ultimately does.
"The Houses October Built" is not an aesthetically attractive movie, but then, it isn't supposed to be. A faux-documentary using a variety of film stocks and video sources leads to an image that is rarely clean and all over the map in terms of quality. Grain, pixelation and color bleeding run rampant, while archival footage is speckled with dirt, haze and VHS-level muddiness. The newer footage that makes up the bulk of the running time, however, is clearly a high-def presentation, albeit one from a low-grade digital camera. The 1080p transfer is nothing if not accurate to source, and is definitely a step above what its standard-def DVD counterpart will look like. At the same time, viewers should temper their expectations and keep in mind the film's intentions. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a more overtly impressive experience, with understated but potent voices and creepy sound effects lurking in the surround channels. Dialogue, meanwhile, comes through sharply.
- "The Original Houses October Built" (1:34:36, HD) - the full-length documentary that inspired the film.
- "Behind the Screams" Featurette (8:47, HD) - an inside look at the haunts.
- Deleted Scenes (24:05, HD)
- "Portrait of a Scare Artist" Photo Gallery (2:07, HD)
- Cast Carvings by "The Pumpkin Geek" (1:11, HD)
RLJ and Image Entertainment's Blu-ray release of "The Houses October Built" is just about as good as one could hope, coming with two full-length features for the price of one (the 91-minute film proper, and the original 94-minute documentary). While the fictional version is only okay, it makes for an irresistible double feature with the superior doc. Both will be especially fun to watch during the Halloween season. Recommended.