Attractions, particularly of the haunted kind, are not unfamiliar in cinema. What’s not to love about Roger Moore’s predicament as he fumbled his way around Scaramanga’s labyrinthine maze with Nick Nack on the loose? More recently Adam Wingard headed over to the haunted maze at McCall’s Haunted Farm to shoot scenes for The Guest. With these haunted attractions making the perfect stomping ground for genre films, writer/director/protagonist Bobby Roe’s feature debut, The Houses October Built took advantage of that specific niche in the market and became quite the modern hit as a result, so much so that it’s gone on to spawn a sequel.
Whilst the original film provided a revelatory look into the haunted attraction business and some of the urban legends surrounding it, this brand new outing aims to open our eyes to the different walks of life that can’t get enough of horror and Halloween, just like you and us. With the film in theatres and available On Demand / Digital HD, SCREAM caught up with co-writer/director/co-star Bobby Roe and co-writer/co-star Zack Andrews to find out what surprises the sequel has prepared for audiences…
SCREAM: Was a sequel always on the cards when you shot the first film or was that a decision that came later on?
Bobby Roe: We always wanted to be able to expand this whole world and we always knew that some people really enjoyed the ambiguous ending whilst other people wanted more of a bow around it or more finality to it. The truth is that we had always devised a plan to button the two together. An interesting reference is that we always liked ‘Karate Kid’ as kids and when ‘Karate Kid 2’ came out, you could watch those two films together seamlessly. So we always thought something like that would be really neat because our movies aren’t really that long and to celebrate Halloween, you could watch the two back-to-back as one long film.
Whilst you wanted to button them together and keep some kind of continuity, what I particularly loved is the fact that it’s still the same shockumentary style of movie but you take quite a different approach, both in terms of the premise and the aesthetic.
BR: That’s right. We wanted to make it bigger and badder and explore the world, and two of the main differences was the use of drones and to visit more Halloween events like the 30,000 person zombie pub crawl in Minneapolis or the 5K on a million square foot military training ground. We wanted to make sure you weren’t seeing the same kind of haunts in the dark. Even as cool as those labyrinths in the dark are in person, too many of those can kind of run together so we wanted to make sure that we showed bigger and badder events to hopefully introduce the rest of the world to these really, really cool Halloween haunts that are ultimately a gathering of all these people that really love horror and Halloween, like us.
So how did you decide on which haunts or gatherings you thought would be most effective for the sequel?
BR: Well first of all, we want to thank you on a lot of that, Howard because you introduced us and opened up the world a little bit in Europe for us, whether it was The Generation of Z and ScareCON and all those guys. That was really one of our favourite stories to even tell about what part one has brought to us and it opened our eyes to how the rest of the world treats Halloween and ‘Houses’ and has given us a lot of ideas for what, for the moment, we can call continuation of this story. And we probably wouldn’t have had those opportunities had you not opened our eyes to them.
I asked you the same question when we spoke about the original, but how much of the film was scripted and how much was footage you just happened to be casually filming at the haunts?
BR: We always have a script and we had one for the first one as well. This one was a little easier because we had completed the movie and also the original documentary so it did really feel like the third time coming out of the box and things are easier that way. But we also wanted authenticity so we know where we have to get the story to at a specific haunt but we wanted it to feel as authentic as possible so if there is a character that we find who is really dynamic and expressive, then we want to let that character expand himself and be authentic and organic and so we weaved those things into our greater narrative.
I know you kept Brandy very much in the dark for the first movie to keep the scares as authentic as possible. Was it a similar case this time round?
BR: We try to keep it as method as possible. We didn’t tell her a lot of what’s around the corner so sometimes it took a bit of convincing to get her to go around certain haunts. But we need that. If she were as much of a haunt enthusiast as us, it wouldn’t play right with her character. She does get very terrified and very scared. But she’s also a team player and a trooper and she goes along with it but we make sure that whenever we film at any of the haunts, we never let her do a run through. Everything you see in the film are her initial real reactions to all this stuff.
Without giving anything away, when it comes to the final “real” scares in the movie, are those all ideas your own creations or did you brainstorm ideas with people who work in the haunt experience industry?
BR: We just try to figure out what would scare us and what would work for us in that experience and so, hopefully, it is something a little bit different and new. If that was to happen to us in real life, I think it’s fair to say that we’d be pretty terrified and confused and not know what to think. So we just put our heads together to give more of a finale than part one has.
The sequel looks and sounds much bigger. You obviously went out of your way to make sure it all looked much more cinematic this time round. At the same time, were you ever concerned that taking that approach might go against the shockumentary aesthetic of the movie?
Zack Andrews: Very much so. We wanted to make it more cinematic but we always want to follow the rules of found footage. It’s difficult to answer this question without giving anything away but, within the confines of these rules, music could be allowed. Things could be scored and things could be edited. People always ask, “Well, who edited the footage?” There’s a rule that we followed and because of the finished product that they have, they could do whatever they want with it. I can see how it’s a divisive thing but hopefully viewers will appreciate it. It was tough in part one for example. Silence is great, but then sometimes you just really want a little bit of horror music. And if you think about it, there’s composed music all the way through haunted houses.
Just to finish up, have you given any thought as to what you’d like to tackle next. Will you be diving straight into another Houses sequel or are you going to take a break to work on something completely different?
ZA: We’ve got a couple of projects on the go. We really enjoyed working with RLJ on this so we are talking with them about a couple of things. We’re also talking with the Producers of “The Walking Dead” because we’ve got a project which we’ve been writing with them for the past nine months. That’s going to get off the ground in early 2018 probably. But at the same time, we don’t think The Houses October Built is dead just yet either so plenty of things on the way…
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 is in theatres and available On Demand / Digital HD now.
Words: Howard Gorman