After being kidnapped by the Blue Skeleton a year prior, a group of friends decide to face their fears by visiting haunted attractions once again. However, all signs point to something sinister and when they’re told to seek out Hell Bent, they wonder if the Blue Skeleton are back.
The premise for The Houses October Built sequel is an odd one. After going through such a traumatic experience a year before, why would they decide to do the same thing again? Luckily, it works. A video of the group’s horrific ordeal goes viral and propels the group into Z-list celebrity territory, with Brandy dubbed as Coffin Girl. This time they are paid to visit the attractions and are doing it for the cash; not just for the desire to be terrified beyond their wildest dreams.
The first film worked because the concept was simple and excellently executed with a believable reason for the hand-held camera format. The characters were decent human beings with actual personalities, rather than the 2-dimensional teenagers we are typically introduced to with these kind of films. It was also genuinely scary and very funny, balancing the horror and comedy elements with ease. This one again ticks all those boxes, but admittedly, the scares are less effective. As you’ll have seen this story before, you’ll be waiting for The Blue Skeleton to make an appearance, so it’s less surprising when things go from bad to worse this time.
Brandy (Brandy Schaefer) suffered the most at the hands of the Blue Skeleton in The Houses October Built, so she is understandably hesitant to get back on the road again with the reminder of being buried alive very much at the forefront of her memory. It’s a little problematic to have your film’s main female character portrayed as so weak – the men have no problem doing it all over again – however, there is a redeeming moment for Brandy that eventually paints her as the strongest, both physically and emotionally. The film does well to escalate the finale’s events above those from the first, so the final 20 minutes are certainly the strongest and scariest the two films have been.
The extent of your enjoyment of this film will rest on how much you enjoyed the first and how much you appreciate a sequel doing, more or less, the same thing again. Aside from a few minor differences thrown in – i.e, the reason the group are visiting the haunted attractions and a difference in the ending – The Houses October Built 2 is almost a carbon copy of the first film. The mockumentary style works again to showcase some of the scariest haunted attractions in the US and much of the fun is in seeing these places in action. As with the first film, the group’s journey is cross-cut with interviews about how extreme those running the attractions will go to give the ultimate fright, teasing the terrifying Blue Skeleton once again. The POV shots in the attractions are entertaining, but you’ll be eager to see the film veer into different territory. It takes a while, but The Houses October Built 2 does raise the bar and definitely delivers a scarier finale than the first.
The cast are what ultimately sells the film and you can forgive the rinse and repeat formula, because these guys are so much fun. The interactions between Bobby and Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson, Brandy Schaefer and Zack Andrews are once again natural, credible and very funny. It’s very difficult to find low-budget found footage films with such a likeable set of protagonists who can actually act, but The Houses October Built shows that it can be done and it can be done twice. Keeping the same cast was a necessity, so it’s great to see them return to continue the story that was so entertaining the first time around.
Despite the similarities to the first, I had a blast with The Houses October Built 2 and think fans will be pleasantly surprised with the story’s continuation and ultimate conclusion. It’s smart, funny and ties a tidy ribbon around the two films, crafting a neat Halloween double-bill that is filled with scary thrills, laughs and an ending that is sure to shock.
Words: Jessy Williams (@JessyCritical)