Out of either an abundance of free time or just a general dearth of recent horror movies to watch, last night we sat down to watch the sequel to The Houses October Built, the world’s longest way of saying “we really like haunted attractions, you guys”. The first movie wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was a solid found footage indie horror movie with a deep love of seasonal haunted houses, and the people who make them. If you haven’t seen it yet, it is a much better movie than this one, so go watch it and come back. This review assumes the reader has already seen the first movie. The next couple of paragraphs will refer explicitly to the ending of the first film, and will reveal major spoilers about the sequel. Thus ends the spoiler-free section of this review. You were warned!
The sequel seems intent from the very beginning on undermining all of the successes of the first film. The deaths of the main characters at the end of the first movie are retconned out of existence – it is revealed that they were not actually buried alive, they were just roughed up, driven around in the trunks of cars and then ditched on the side of the road to walk back to town, disoriented and scared. The one Skeleton who was arrested vanishes into thin air, a fact that is never mentioned again. It is also revealed that the Blue Skeleton Group, which is what I will now call them for the rest of time, put it all on Youtube as marketing; the video of Brandy locked in a coffin and freaking out gets 24 million views, making her and the four interchangeable bros viral video stars as well.
Cut to a year later. The gang are still at it – now minor internet celebrities, the five friends are being offered money to film themselves touring haunted attractions around the country for publicity. Despite their apparent trauma from the events of the first movie, they are almost all eager to set out on the road again, with the exception of Brandy, who seems like the sanest person in the film by not wanting any part of this bullshit. She literally has to remind them she was locked in a coffin and thought she would die. Her friends’ response is to say “but you didn’t, right?” No harm, no foul, am I right?
In fact, Brandy is the only one who seems at all traumatized, or even cognizant of the danger they were apparently in. Even when people dressed like the Blue Skeleton Group start showing up at every haunt they go to across multiple states, the bros are unconcerned, seemingly oblivious to the danger. This is explained with a nonsense third-act twist when the bros reveal that they were all in on the whole ordeal – they were all getting paid to bring along Brandy and help the Skeletons scare the living shit out of her. *record scratch* PLOT TWIST!
But wait a second. They knowingly did all of this bullshit to their traumatized friend, at the behest of people who stalked and assaulted them a year ago. Are they idiots or just colossal assholes? That’s the real horror in this movie, that four guys would do this to someone they consider a friend. What in the actual fuck! Now I’m more scared of the protagonists than I ever was of the Blue Skeleton Group.
And what the hell is up with the Spooky Skeleton Gang? They appear and disappear as if by magic (seriously, where did the Skeleton in the opening disappear to after the cop cuffed him?), always turning up wherever the main characters go, across like 4 states. They film the gang constantly and one of them is revealed to be following the group by clinging to the undercarriage of their RV (?!) as they drive between states. CLINGING. To the UNDERSIDE. Of the RV.
Which begs an excellent question – why do that, ever, at all? I mean, if the four guys are in on it…and filming everything…why did the Skeletons even need to follow them and film everything? Why the fuck did that guy need to hang off the underside of their RV? Why did they drug them all and hijack their RV to get them to their haunted abandoned factory? I have so many questions.
Perhaps the biggest question is…why make this movie at all? It broke no new ground and followed the formula of the first movie to the letter, except for the significantly less impactful ending, made worse by the fact that the movie began with a character looking into the camera and straight up SAYING, “the events of the last movie turned out to be a hoax, but this time it all ends in bloody tragedy”.
That this movie managed to fall on its face this hard while simultaneously kicking the chair out from under their previous film is a cruel double whammy. In the end, my advice is to skip this, and let the first The Houses October Built stand on its own. It didn’t need a sequel, and it definitely didn’t need a sequel that squanders everything it achieved in the name of a boring retread.
Score: 1 out of 5 Dancing Skeletons