The Houses October Built 2 2017
Recovering from the trauma of being kidnapped last Halloween by the Blue Skeleton - a group who take "extreme haunt" to another level - five friends decide they must face their fears in order to move on. Heading back out on the road to visit more haunted house attractions, signs of the Blue Skeleton start appearing again and a new terror begins...
September 22, 2017
Zack Andrews and Bobby Roe
Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, and Mikey Roe
2014’s The Houses October Built was a surprise indie hit in 2014; while both the found footage subgenre and the paranormal investigators motif have become stale in the 2010’s, Houses found its niche by exploring the relatively new phenomenon of “Extreme Haunts”. These aren’t your Disney-style spooky attractions with animatronics and wandering specters shouting “Boo!”. Extreme Haunts are full-contact, immersive experiences that blur the line between horror entertainment and physical/psychological abuse. The phenomenon is fascinating, in part, for the fact that people voluntarily subject themselves to these potentially traumatizing experiences—paying for the privilege of being emotionally devastated. It speaks to 21st Century adrenaline-addicted youth culture, as well as a jaded mentality where it’s all been done before, and the only place left to go is into truly criminal territories.
In many ways, the idea of an Extreme Haunt that ends in murder seems ominously prophetic, as though we’re being given a window into the terrifying future of fear we’re careening straight into.
The Houses October Built 2 is now available to see online and in select theaters; but before you go, you might want to familiarize yourself with the term retroactive continuity. Retroactive continuity, or retcon for short, “is a literary device in which established facts in a fictional work are adjusted, ignored or contradicted by a subsequently published work which breaks continuity with the former”. If you were a fan of 2014’s Houses, you may have mixed feelings about characters who were presumed dead (and others who were explicitly killed) being back in the saddles (of their RV), not much worse for wear—still driven by the dubious goal of finding the most over-the-top Extreme Haunts in existence.
Official Synopsis: Recovering from the trauma of being kidnapped last Halloween by the Blue Skeleton – a group who take “extreme haunt” to another level – five friends decide they must face their fears in order to move on. Heading back out on the road to visit more haunted house attractions, signs of the Blue Skeleton start appearing again and a new terror begins…
The Houses October Built 2 is directed by Bobby Roe, who also stars and co-wrote the script. Co-scribe Zack Andrews also stars in the film, along with Jeff Larson, Mikey Roe, and Brandy Schaefer.
The Houses October Built 2 (aka Look Guys! We Got a Drone!) is an excellent meta-film. Not only do the actors use their real names, the events they visit during their search for the ultimate thrill are real. In many ways, Houses 2 is a documentary of America’s most famous haunted attractions, complete with cameos from the actual organizer and artists who plan all year for macabre October festivities. It’s illuminating for folks who don’t realize just how big these attractions have gotten, and the rabid enthusiasm of those who participate. Dead Heads and Juggalos got nothing on these fervent fanatics! In many ways, Houses 2 is a celebration of the season and the spirit of community that draws folks out in hordes for frightening fun.
As for the fiction within the fact, our heroes find themselves stalked by members of Blue Skeleton, the underground organization that pushed them to the brink of insanity in Part 1. We see familiar skull masks and even the ominous doll-faced Porcelain (played by Chloë Crampton), a character who has become a minor horror icon in real life, popping up throughout, hinting at an inevitable confrontation. The found footage presentation is interspersed with voyeuristic shots of outsiders looking in, making it clear that the documentarians are the subjects of the story—not the haunts they visit and review.
There’s a twist that may not sit well with all fans, as well as some troubling subtext involving workplace sexual harassment that may or may not have been intentional. There are times when it feels like the retroactive continuity discussed earlier was used as an excuse to play fast and loose with major inconsistencies and plot holes. If we accept that Mikey isn’t dead anymore, for example, why should we care if the film itself doesn’t make sense, as its creation within the context of the meta-world falls apart under the slightest scrutiny. Which is why I enjoyed Houses 2 best when I watched it as a documentary first and a creeper 2nd. From this perspective, the film becomes a series of vignettes, each taking place in a different haunt, with gradually increasing intensity throughout. The Blue Skeleton confrontation becomes a wrap-around connecting these distinct chapters.
As opposed to the first Houses, Houses 2 leaves the door wide open for a sequel with no need for future retcon. Will we see more Houses October Built in future installments? Will our intrepid travelers establish a vendetta with the Blue Skeleton Crew leading to years of cat and mouse meanderings? I’m sure the producers hope so. And, as long as the extreme haunt phenomenon continues to surge in popularity, expect these tropes and motif to pop up more frequently in 21st Century horror.
Bottom Line: If you like the first film and can get past the retroactive continuity, The Houses October Built 2 is an equally enjoyable experience. This budding franchise is on the cutting edge of bringing the Extreme Hunt phenomenon into theaters and living rooms, giving a somewhat obscure subculture time in the limelight. Those while a knee-jerk disdain towards found-footage, mockumentaries, and experimental/meta-filmmaking should probably stick to more mainstream fare, but adventurous aficionados will enjoy the romp.