The Houses October Built was a 2014 found-footage horror film that carved out a small following for itself. Despite mixed reviews, it was a decent chiller that delivered just enough unsettling mood without exhausting its found-footage approach. Like Hell House LLC and Hell Fest, writer and director Bobby Roe effectively exploited growing public interest in Halloween haunted attractions. So when The Houses October Built 2 was announced, I was initially excited to see where Roe would take his story next. Then I watched the trailer and was very, very disappointed. So where does The Houses October Built 2 go wrong?
After they are seemingly buried alive by Blue Skeleton, an extreme haunt company, Brandy and her friends are set free from what was an elaborate hoax. A year passes and the five friends have dealt with their ordeal differently. Brandy, now infamous on the Internet as ‘Coffin Girl’, still struggles with the trauma. When Zack and the other survivors decide to take another haunted house road trip, Brandy is coerced into joining them. But the past won’t stay buried. Blue Skeleton soon re-surfaces to haunt the friends one last time.
A Sequel that Devalues Its Own Predecessor
Many sequels fail to justify their own existence. Truth be told, sequels are generally greenlit to cash in on perceived franchise potential. Few sequels exist out of a genuine need to further explore a story. Look no further than the 1980’s, a decade brimming with sequels that recycled story lines, albeit with a higher body count.
Nevertheless, The Houses October Built 2 dares 80’s horror sequels to hold its beer. This is the rare sequel that’s not only worse than the original, but manages to drag the original down with it.
Nevertheless, The Houses October Built 2 dares 80’s horror sequels to hold its beer. This is the rare sequel that’s not only worse than the original, but manages to drag the original down with it. Specifically, Roe and Zack Andrews’ screenplay makes a fatal mistake in the first give to 10 minutes. It’s a decision that invalidates everything that happened in The Houses October Built. Don’t believe me. Watch the sequel and then go back and try and watch the original. Every last bit of suspense and tension built the first time around is drained.
As it turns out, no one died at the end of The Houses October Built. That’s right, Blue Skeleton are just very dedicated haunted attraction staff. Yet rather than introduce a new antagonist in the sequel we’re treated to another go-around with the same villains. Inevitably, this story choice creates a serious problem for the sequel. If Blue Skeleton were just playing an elaborate prank the first time, why should we be worried for the protagonists this time? From the very outset of this sequel, the suspense is all but sucked out from the premise.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Aside from its narrative blunder, The Houses October Built 2 seems content to just repeat its story. Yes, pretty much everything that happened in the first film repeats, just in a more underwhelming fashion. Roe and Andrews’ screenplay takes few detours from the first movie. As a result, The Houses October Built 2 will feel very familiar. You’ll experience fewer scares, fewer chills, and be less invested. But even with so much overlap, Roe still opts to take his time getting to the scares.
Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me
Most of the cast from The Houses October Built return for the sequel. Given that they’re essentially working with the same story, all of the actors turn in pretty comparable performances. Like the original film, Brandy Schaefer stands out with another strong performance. In contrast, the remaining cast comes off as less likable. It’s not so much that any of the actors are phoning it in. The script saddles them with characters making an implausibly stupid decision. Who would voluntarily put themselves through the same ordeal a second time? It’s a case of ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.’
The Houses October Built 2 Was Better Off Dead
The Houses October Built 2 is an underwhelming sequel that suffers the additional problem of a terrible narrative decision. There were so many different directions open to Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews. They’re blessed with a premise rich in potential. Think about it. A deviant subculture of haunted park staff that would kill you to get a scare is a goldmine for a franchise. Sadly, the filmmakers went left, when they should have gone right. Maybe they owed the original cast a favour. At this point, the why is irrelevant as this sequel probably successfully killed off any franchise potential.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C-