Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Just in time for Halloween comes THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT, a found footager that takes a camera into Halloween Haunts and backroads Haunted Houses. My review of the film is later on in the column, but first here is a conversation I had with Bobby Roe (Director/Writer/Actor) and Zack Andrews (Producer/Writer/Actor) about THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): For those who know nothing about THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT, can you give a brief rundown of what the film's all about?
ZACK ANDREWS (ZA): The film is about a group of friends who want a Halloween adventure. My character plans a RV trip across the country to find the scariest haunted house. Along the way, the fivesome encounters all different types of Halloween themed attractions. But pretty soon they get in over their heads when the most extreme haunted house finds them.
BUG: There is a genuine quality in terms of the Halloween haunt scenes that go on in the earlier part of this film. Did you go to different haunts to film this or just one?
BOBBY ROE (BR): Thanks, went to around 10 different haunts and tried to be as diversified as we could on themes, scare tactics, environments, etc. A list of the haunts is in the credits as well so that fans could experience these places too.
BUG: What do you remember about your own first haunted house experience that stuck with you?
ZA: My parents kept me pretty sheltered, so I remember being a teenager before I went to a real haunted house (besides just the ones a the school carnival). The anticipation was scarier than what was actually inside the place. We played with that concept in the movie as well.
BR: Not me, I vividly recall being at a Jaycees Haunted House in Dallas, Texas with my Dad. Because I was only 6 years old, I can also remember thinking that a guy named J.C. owned all the Haunted Houses in the world. The finale that’s what is ingrained in my mind to this day. A man in a mask jumped down through ceiling tiles with a chainsaw smoking and grinding in front of my face. I’ll never forget that feeling of being petrified, but what sticks out as an even stranger feeling is…wanting to go through the haunt again.
BUG: It feels like you have to have gone to a lot of haunts in order to make this film. Is there a particular scare or feature in haunted houses that is your favorite? Is there one that you hate the most?
BR: There is a 4D effect at Zombie Manor in Mansfield, TX that is fantastic. We put it in the movie. It’s an LCD that looks like a window. A zombie gets its head blown off and at that same moment you get liquid squirt on your face. It really shocked Brandy (lead actress) because your brain truly thinks you’re covered in blood. It was nice to see technology blend with the scare world. As for hate…I can’t stand those antiquated Chuck E. Cheese style animatronics. They need to be updated. I want the Skynet versions.
BUG: What's the scariest haunt out there that you've ever been to?
ZW: Every haunt has something about it that’s memorable. Any time a haunt gets me alone, thats going to be scary no matter what is going on. And if you can fool me visually to let my guard down and then surprise me, I'm going to jump. You are all wound up when going through, but some how they have to disarm you. Sometimes its with music or making you walk through a tight space. Just get me focused on something else and then I'm vulnerable.
BR: Because we went to so many, for me, it started to be more about the creativity then the scares. Haunts have evolved, all in all it’s a celebration of what Halloween stands for. Each haunt had some great scares, but when we went to shoot real Zombies with paintballs at Rise Haunted House, that was a dream come true.
BUG: Have you shown this film to Halloween haunt employees? If so, what were their reactions to it?
BR: Yes, to some. Scare actors seem to really respond. All of their hard work each year goes underappreciated. This is just the movie version of what they do as a job. That’s why it was important to cast a bunch of real scare actors from around the country. Which we did.
BUG: There are those who groan when the term found footage is used. What do you say to those who may not want to take a chance with your film because it is filmed in first person POV?
BR: I get where people are coming from about found-footage. The style IS watered down. We refer to HOUSES more as a Halloween movie, because a camera style shouldn’t dictate how well you tell a story. POV is done for a reason in this film. Most of these other movies are completely staged. Which is fine, I enjoyed those too for awhile. And people always go back to Blair Witch. Those guys nailed it for the early years of the internet, but the fact is it’s faked from frame one. It’s exactly what horror fans needed and wanted to believe at the time.
But it’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST that really pioneered this approach for me. They used real natives, went down to South America and went into the heart of darkness for their story. What is staged is for you to decide. I mean Ruggero Deodato, the film’s director, was arrested after the premiere because people thought what was on screen was real. We wanted to tell our story the same way, with real haunt actors, real haunts, and real Halloween environments.
BUG: This film feels like it was of a modest budget which also opens the doors to a lot of challenges for filmmakers. What challenges did you have in making the film and how did you overcome them?
ZA: You have to be creative. We filmed on million dollar sets for free, so that was a HUGE budget saver. I was glad we could use that money on sound, lighting, and music because those people are so talented and it really raised the level of the film. We wouldn't have been able to have a lot of those people if we had to spend money on creating haunted houses.
BUG: Were there parts of the script that proved to be too ambitious for the budget and had to be tweaked/changed/dropped along the way?
BR: We wrote and really played with idea of alternate endings. Not just for the BluRay, but for theaters. We wanted to do what CLUE did back in ’85 and have a different ending for different theaters. But that is very expensive, maybe one day.
BUG: The dialog really feels comfortable and genuine. How tight of a script did this film have in terms of actors ad libbing and riffing off of one another and the situations they were in?
BR: It’s the Wild West when you are on a public set, so there is freedom to ad lib. I had signals by tapping parts of Brandy’s back to ask certain questions in the beginning to drive story. She has such a charm and disarming way about her it became clear to step back and let her do her thing. In the more contained scenes, like in the RV, we would stick closer to the pages. Everyone knew where we were going, what their role/character motivation was. An organic, or Horrorganic film was our goal, the chemistry of the cast worked really well together and we would be remised to not let them riff off each other in a natural way.
BUG: I love the idea of a carnie bar where these haunt workers go to after the attractions are closed. Do those really exist or was that made up for the film?
ZA: A lot of the workers are underage, so it’s less prevalent than you think, but it does exist. These haunts are like families, they hang out with each other after work and knock a few back. That wasn't hard to find.
BUG: What's next for you guys in terms of a follow up or next film now that THE HOUSES THAT OCTOBER BUILT is done?
ZA: Our agent sent us a bunch of scripts the past couple months that we have really enjoyed. We are meeting with some of those writers now. We’d also love to do a follow up/sequel. We tried to lay out a lot of mythology in the movie. Some of it is only in small details, but it’s there to tell a larger story inside the haunt world. Plus there are so many more amazing haunted houses out there to explore.
BUG: Last chance, why should folks take a chance and see THE HOUSES THAT OCTOBER BUILT?
BR: It’s simple. On December 25th, people and their families choose from thousands for Christmas based movies to watch together. But when it comes time for Halloween, what do we got? We always lean on a horror film or a slasher to go with our All Hallows’ Eve. I do too. But if you really stop and think about, there are only a few movies that actually deal with Halloween. Hell, John Carpenter’s Halloween is barely about Halloween. And there are even fewer, if any at all, that deal with Halloween Haunted Houses. So starting October 10th go to theaters or VOD and watch THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT, then continue the festivities by going out and supporting one of your local haunted houses that night.
BUG: THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT is available on Friday in select theaters, on iTunes, and On Demand. Below is my review of the film!
New this week in theaters, On Demand and iTunes from RLJ IMAGE Entertainment!
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT (2013)Directed by Bobby Roehttp://www.imdb.com/name/nm3345617/?ref_=tt_ov_dr
Written by Zack Andrews, Jeff Larson & Bobby Roe
Starring Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe and Jeff Larson
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I love haunted houses. I’ve been going since I was a kid and, like many of you, I look forward to October because that means they’ll be popping up all over town. That said, like the characters in THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT, I am getting a bit jaded at the same-old same-old stuff you see at these types of attractions. There’s the lights out maze, the chainsaw chase, and of course, tons and tons of masked people jumping out at you in the darkness. So if someone were to come to me with a proposition to seek out an underground, extreme haunted house, I most likely, like the kids in this film, would probably go along for the ride.
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT is an effective blend of found footage and shockumentary. The film indicates at the beginning that this is a compilation of footage found after a group of haunted house thrill-seekers go on a trip to find the ultimate in Halloween haunts. So the heavy editing and splicing of the different cameras didn’t really bother me as it does with others of this sort who try to pawn the entire film, cuts from different cameras and all, as something “found.” The technical aspects of how this film was put together was presented in such a way that it didn’t rip me out of the film. THOB also intercuts interviews with Halloween haunters, most of them dressed in full or half costume, discussing urban legends about extreme haunts, recounting actual mishaps and deaths that occur in these types of places, and pontificating about the type of deviant that might be attracted to working this type of job where they have to scare people daily.
The mix of the filmmakers aspirations to find the most extreme haunted house, the news footage of actual mishaps, and interviews with all sorts of seedy characters really does set the tone for something pretty scary and for the most part, THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT delivers a perfect bag of horrifying tricks and petrifying treats. The actors feel genuine in both their interactions with one another and their reactions to the scares (real and unreal) in front of them. And as the film goes on and the horrors get all too real, it feels like a natural progression of scares and not just a lot of the usual boring build up to nothing that often occurs in found footagers. The film opens with the group going through an actual haunted house—which I must admit made me jump quite a few times, then says “No, we want something better than that.” and actually lives up to that promise. That’s a promise not many films of this kind keep.
As the haunters begin to haunt the group inside and outside of these roadside attractions, there’s a real sense of horror going on. The film feels like it peels back the curtain behind the lives of the people who work at these places; taking the viewer into haunter bars where they all go to hang out afterwards that are as twisted as the haunts themselves, and into chatrooms and websites designed to connect those who need the most extreme haunt and those who can provide it. This film ratchets up the strangeness from the ominous beginning and continues to screw with you until the end.
If you’re a connoisseur of side-road spook shows, back road monster houses, and Halloween havens, there’s a lot to like in THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT. While it does utilize the tried and true technique of the found footage motif, it delivers with effective scares and a whole lot of carnie weirdness. From start to finish the film actually gives you the feel of going through a real Halloween haunt. So if you can’t make your way to a haunted house this Halloween season, don’t worry. You can stay home and check out THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT for practically the same effect.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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