In 2014, a little horror film infused some fresh blood into the found footage subgenre and became regarded in some circles as a critical watch for fans during Halloween Season. The Houses That October Built was centered around a novel and fun concept: a group of friends travelled in an RV to take in the spookiest, most extreme haunted attractions the country had to offer. The film incorporated footage from these haunts alongside interviews with the merry band of weirdos that worked them.
The film ended with a cliffhanger, as Brandy, the lone female of the group, found herself locked in the trunk of a car and at the mercy of the Blue Skeleton, the haunt group that stalked the film crew in the first film. The question lingered whether or not the friends fell prey to a bunch of murderers or if they were unknowing customers for the extreme haunters.
The Houses That October Built 2 answers that question in the first few minutes, as Brandy is dropped off at the side of the road, handed the film crew’s tapes and left to bum a ride back to civilization. The new movie picks up a year later, with the crew minus the traumatized Brandy hitting the order again in order to check out more haunts. They’ve turned their internet fame into a paying gig, as they’re guests of these Halloween theme parks that get paid for their vlogging reviews. The guys are desperate to bring Brandy back into the fold, as she’s considered the “star” of what happened to them the year prior. Without her, the crew’s paydays are limited. She reluctantly agrees with the caveat that they won’t visit and sort of “extreme” haunt.
Unfortunately what worked so well in the first film comes across as watered down this time around. While the men won’t admit it, they seem to be as affected by the events of the previous Halloween as Brandy. It comes across in their choice of scare attractions, which are a far step down from the previous film. In fact, most of the proprietors of the haunted locales go out of their way to distance themselves from the over the top Halloween fun parks, telling the camera crew that they want to walk up to the line while remaining “family friendly.” While I have no doubts that an arthouse haunted walk through, simulated zombie escape interactive game and the featured hayride would be fun to do in person, the experience comes off lame in film. The film diversifies the attractions this time around with a zombie 5K that takes place on a massive and tricked out location, and a costume pub crawl that comes across as an exercise in corporate branding, but these fail to captivate the viewer.
While the Blue Skeleton rears its head again, silently tracking the group as they make their way across different locations, it takes more than an hour for this to have any sort of forward momentum. This results in long stretches of time where the group serves as tour guides to each new location. Also, since the Blue Skeleton revealed themselves as extreme haunt actors, when they finally “kidnap” the travelling buddies again, it robs the interactions of any drama. It never feels like the friends are in any real peril, since the film’s hand has already been revealed.
The Houses That October Built 2 comes across like a demo reel for a gig that series co-creators Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews would rather be working on. If they managed to get a travelogue show showcasing various haunted attractions, I’m sure many viewers would be all in on the idea. As far a horror film series goes however, this idea has been taken as far as it could go, and even a second entry feels like stretching it too thin.