Sunday, January 27, 2019

Great Premise, Lackluster Execution: The Houses October Built

The Houses October Built PosterThat's always the way, isn't it? You hear of a book or, in this case, a movie, that sounds awesome. A found-footage film about dark rides. You go into it all excited, and everything starts out good, but then somewhere down the line things fall apart. That's the case with The Houses October Built (2014).

My first disappointment was the exclusive focus on modern haunted attractions, rather than vintage, Coney-Island style dark rides. But I was okay with that, as the film started off with a solid framework for talking about the staffing of such attractions, and how for some workers, the line between themselves and their characters, themselves and the people they scare, can be easily blurred. That was a great concept for a horror film, and once again made the found-footage film (my not-so favorite medium) make perfect organic sense. How else would you see the inside of these places?

The idea that some people, especially at extreme attractions, don't know when to call it quits was quite creepy. But toward the end, the main plot of the story started to take a tangent for the fantastical. I like the idea of an attraction being more immersive, and going beyond the borders of an indoor space, but when the haunted actors perform criminal acts, it's hard for me to imagine people continually going along with assault in every sense of the term. The ending got even muddier, and the less-than-skillful camerawork with shaky frames (like when the camerman is running) was not as deliberate as it could have been. I'm well aware that artistic shots of nothing or of abstract motion are part of the tropes of this subgenre, but it has been done better by others, and it didn't heighten the mood here-only my confusion.

K Rating: 3/5

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