Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Houses October Built (2014)

Oh, boy, another found footage movie. Alright, that's not fair. I shouldn't immediately give a movie shit just because it uses an idea that I'm really tired of seeing. There have been some found footage films I really enjoyed. This movie might end up being one of my favourite ones, so let's go into this with a mind clear of bias. After all, this movie doesn't involve Eli Roth, so already I can give it that. And I will admit, the idea of some people looking for the scariest haunted house attractions during October is an interesting premise. It's the exact sort of thing I...would never do because I don't trust people.

And let me tell you, my paranoia has yet to steer me wrong. That's why I don't eat carnival food.

My lack of trust in people may seem like an unhealthy extension of my anxiety, but it's also my natural survival instinct kicking in. It tells me not to go fucking around with things I have no business getting into. You won't see me scaling haunted lighthouses in St. Augustine or seeking out practitioners of voodoo. I love horror movies, stories, spooky things, and I will hang around with a ton of skeletons, but I draw the line when it comes to putting my own bits at risk. I am not an adventure seeker or adrenaline junkie. I did all of my stupid risky stuff a long time ago, back when I was usually under the effects of some other substances. I'm older now and I prefer to not push my luck. Call me a pussy, but it is what it is. So, let's just say I will likely not feel like I have a lot in common with the main characters in our film, because I'm the guy in Friday the 13th Part 2 who decided to go home the minute he heard the name "Camp Blood".

You don't have to warn me twice, Ralph! Scoot over, let's take this bike back to town because I'm bailing out!
Our film today concerns five people who are nothing at all like me. Well, one has a beard, but that's where the similarities end. As I said in the opening paragraph, the plot is basically that they're going to find the most extreme haunts there are. Why are they filming it? Well, other than a mention of one or two of them having gone to film school, I'm not sure why. I guess their "get murdered on film" senses were going off, so they just knew it had to happen this way. Now, going into this film I have heard some comments regarding the main characters. People said that felt natural and real. You know what else feels natural and real? Shitting. Why do I bring that up? Heh...oh, you just wait.

Biff knows what I'm talking about.
During the entire movie we also get many clips of people being interviewed about shady workers, actual deaths involving haunts that are supposedly accidents, and things of that nature. BECAUSE SUBTLE! But hey, if we didn't see where it was going, the movie actually spoils pretty much everything by starting off with the lead girl being stuck in a trunk, which contextually doesn't actually happen until the end of the movie. Do you like your horror movies to have a happy ending? Sorry, you better bail out now, because this is only going to end in tears. Loud annoying screaming tears. The other thing to note about this movie is that the main characters are actually the people who are playing them. So either they're playing fictionalized versions of themselves or...wait, no. Not yet. Soon, but not yet.

It's the sort of surprise that isn't really that surprising. Like saying there's a scary clown. All clowns are scary.
We have Bobby, his brother Mike, Jeff, Zack, and Brandy. I'm fairly certain Brandy and Zack are together romantically, although maybe they're just friend who fuck. No judgements here, everyone is allowed to do their own thing. Bobby is the one who is all about filming their trip, which still doesn't make much sense unless he's going to make a documentary, but they never really say it's for that. It's just that he wants to film the trip, which is fine, but most attractions do not allow cameras and you can get arrested for attempting to film inside them without permission. Keep that in mind. They gather together and partake in an act no one ever does in a horror movie: they party.

"PARTYYYYYYYYYYY!!!"
It's at this point that I am forced to pick myself up and make a second check to see if Eli Roth is involved in this movie, because if I see Party Cop stick his head into frame, I swear I will cave my own head in. But don't worry, this movie is still produced by someone involved with Paranormal Activity, because that series totally didn't wear out its welcome. But it's fine, characters party in other horror movies that aren't bad. There's still hope. We can turn this around. After the party, we see Bobby setting up the cameras and Mike wakes up to reveal he had a one night stand in the back of the RV they're traveling in. Anyway, they get out on the road and arrive at the first attraction. We get to see some cool looking costumes and the attraction itself looks fun enough. But after exiting the attraction comes the big surprise everyone has been waiting for! Are you ready? Here it is! Our main characters are assholes!

She's more shocked than I am.
Yeah, I know these actors are most likely playing fictionalized versions of themselves...but if not then they kind of come off as unlikable jackasses who you don't feel bad for at all. Either way, the unlikable cast of characters in a horror movie thing is actually something that I've grown pretty tired of. It has littered many modern film for the last couple of decades and it seems like the writers either don't care enough to give their characters enough depth to care about them or they simply want the audience to root for the antagonist. Don't get me wrong, I love me some horror movie bad guys. Jason Voorhees is my bro, Freddy is my old dream buddy, and Farmer Vincent always gives me the best jerky, but what happened to having a heroic character who you want to see survive? As much as I like the bad guys, there are usually still other characters I feel for in their films that I want to see triumph.

Something tells me this is our hero and he just couldn't stand the other characters.
From the point where Mike pisses off the workers at this first attraction, it immediately becomes clear that this is what is going to lead to their demise. And yeah, maybe apologizing could've fixed things and offered a happy ending for them, but nope. We get more of them same as the film continues. They go to an attraction, one or more of them does something to piss someone off, and clearly this is leading to a bad result for the group. Honestly, the only character who isn't completely unlikable is Brandy. You even feel sorry for her as she's dragged into a strip club by the guys and sees zombie strippers all over them. This includes her possible boyfriend, Zack. Yes, you'd think I'd really feel bad about seeing bad things happen to her.

And I would if she wasn't so damned annoying.
Yes, whereas the guys all seem to exist to be a gaggle of fucksticks, Brandy is here to be loud and annoying. I am all for a scream queen, but please, tone it down a bit. A little goes a long way and she gives too much. Throughout their trip, we see familiar faces from other attractions lurking around, clearly implying these people are stalking them for being shitty towards their brethren. And more than once people at the attractions are very unhappy about the fact that they're filming things, which makes the whole carrying a camera around thing essentially just them asking for something bad to happen. Zack promises many times that he's going to find them the best haunts as he hunts down a very particular one known as Blue Skeleton.

Gee, I wonder where the name comes from...
This search for the ultimate extreme haunt all seems to be Bobby's idea too, which means that every bad thing that happens is firmly on him and his brother who decided to piss off possibly unbalanced people working at various haunted house attractions. Mike even nearly gets into a fight with a guy who is angry at them for filming when they were clearly told that they weren't allowed to film anything. Great. But if that's not enough to make us nearly root for the main characters' deaths, the final straw comes when they discover that someone broke into their RV while they slept and filmed them all sleeping, because this person then uploaded that video online. What do our "heroes" do? Do they contact law enforcement to report the clear threat to their persons? Do they report the fact that someone broke into private property? Because the police actually do have ways of tracking down the uploader. No, they do none of those things, because that would require them to stop taking a trip down the rabbit hole of stupidity.

Don't worry, someone else is already down there waiting for them. He lives there.
This highlights a major problem with this film: the characters are too stupid and unlikable to care about the fates of. Again, I want to care about the main characters. I want to see them exist for something beyond just being fodder to be killed off. As silly as some horror movies can be, I can think of some particularly silly ones that still had likable characters that I wanted to see survive. I 'm sure I'll talk about at least a couple of those later this month. Here? I could give a shit what happens to any of them. I can't even bring myself to root for the obvious killers either, as while on the hunt for the Blue Skeleton attraction some of the performers corner Brandy in the bathroom and seem to be about five seconds from gang raping her there. I can't even watch a found footage horror movie without rape trickling into it somewhere, can I? It's following me, stalking me like some really terrible slasher movie.

Don't worry about me snapping...that happened quite some time ago, I assure you.
Does it feel like I am barely touching upon the plot? If so, I'm sorry. Let's go over some things I might have skipped over. Well, there's a creepy doll girl. They find her on the road and she comes into the RV, screams, then leaves. Jeff raps, I guess. He's not really good at it, but such is the way it tends to go when you're a white guy. Um...oh, I know what else I didn't talk about! Jeff gets his tongue cut out! Yeah, I can't recall if this happens before or after Brandy nearly gets raped, but Jeff follows what he thinks is Bobby into an alleyway and he gets held down by the various costumed workers we've seen in the film and they seemingly cut his tongue out with a pair of hedge clippers. While I question why this happened to Jeff, who I don't recall being especially offensive, it occurred to me that maybe this was their way of letting him know he should stop rapping.

Clearly they're ICP fans though, so maybe they're not without a little bias.
But let's wrap this up, shall we? They get texted by their clearly dead friend to meet him out in the middle of nowhere. Instead a bus meets them out there with people in skull masks. They text them via their dead friend's phone with a blatant lie, saying they will kill Jeff if they don't come out in 60 seconds. Personally, I say fuck Jeff, they can keep him. No amount of sick rhymes can make up for being tortured to death in the middle of nowhere. But our idiots waste time with indecisiveness, with Zack being the only one who goes out to the bus. The others get taken a bit more forcefully. They get black-bagged, but don't worry, the skull mask people keep filming. They all get let out in different places, but all end up in the same place somehow. We get a very annoying bit of Zack in the dark where you can't see anything, a lot more of Brandy screaming, Mike having a bloody hand for some reason despite never being shown to have gotten hurt, and then they all get buried alive while Brandy screams some more. Roll credits.

"Are you implying that I scream too much?"
Frankly, I didn't like this movie much at all. Despite my automatic dislike of most found footage movies because of how tired and overused it has become as a trend, I actually hoped this would be really good. The trailer had me interested and a big part of me wondered if this wouldn't all turn out to be some really elaborate show the performers put on to fuck with assholes who ruined their enjoyment of the business. That would have been clever and interesting, especially since it is mentioned that the Blue Skeleton is a roaming attraction. But no, it turns out the movie is just another movie about unlikable people who party and get killed. It's not clever or inventive and it really wasn't even entertaining to watch them die even. For such a short film, it also felt like it dragged on too long, which is likely because I grew so tired of the main cast very quickly.

I would have rather the movie had been about this guy. He seems more likable.
I hate to pan this movie, because I know it can't be easy to make a movie and that this is the first film from the director, who also happens to star in this movie as himself, but I can't lie about how I feel. This movie didn't feel scary, it felt irritating. The characters, the story, the deaths, and the whole shebang was just a big load of irritation for me. I thought this movie would be a good way to kick off October, allowing me to highlight a promising directorial debut. Instead I am just disappointed and annoyed to no end. It's available to watch right now on Netflix, if you're really curious, but I in no way recommend this film. It's a perfect example of a movie that blows all its best scenes in the trailer, leaving you with nothing left to enjoy when you watch the film itself. That's it. I've got nothing left to say. So, until I get hate mail for shitting on this movie which results in me getting a visit from Mr. Giggles up there, I'll be here trying to keep enough caffeine in my system to keep assembling words into something resembling reviews. Later days, bleeders.

Is it weird that I am strangely attracted to the doll girl? It's the eyes.



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