Friday, September 22, 2017

The Houses October Built 2: Blue Skeleton Strikes Back

This is one area where it is definitely more socially favorable to receive rather than give. Most folks can accept the healthy catharsis of enjoying a good scare, but if you dig scaring people, you are probably some kind of mean bastard. It makes you wonder about the people who work at “extreme haunts.” Most of them probably just want to entertain their patrons, but the shadowy group known as Blue Skeleton is something else entirely. At the end of the first film, Blue Skeleton had entombed Brandy in a coffin and were just about to cover it with dirt when the cops arrived. Now known on the internet as “Coffin Girl,” she will reluctantly join her cash-poor friends and fellow Blue Skeleton survivors on another tour of the heartland’s most distinctive haunted houses in Bobby Roe’s The Houses October Built 2 (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

The October franchise is an interesting attempt to combine the found footage horror movie with reality travel programming. As in the first installment, Brandy and her jerky pals will tour some real-life haunts and in some cases, talk to the actual proprietors. Not surprisingly, it is hard to get the mix right, but some of the attractions, like the zombie run and a cerebral zombie apocalypse role playing scenario look like a great deal of fun.

Unfortunately, it is never all that scary to watch them tour the real world, fake haunts. However, we periodically see ominous signs Blue Skeleton is out there, watching them. It should therefore surprise nobody when it turns out they are the people behind “Hellbent,” the extreme haunt all the professionals are talking about in hushed tones.

For the most part, Roe and co-writer-co-star Zack Andrews follow the same playbook they used for the first film, but that option will not be available to them if they come back for another sequel, because of a game-changing climax. It is also striking how little actual on-screen gore can be seen in these films. Yet, the sequel has some admittedly creepy moments.

To increase the meta-ness, all five Scooby Mystery team members play their namesakes. They deserve credit, because they really nail that bickering, bantering camaraderie, which is so tough to fake. We definitely believe they have been through a lot together. Brandy Schaefer is particularly compelling as “Coffin Girl.” She is absolutely not a victim, but she also has an understandably limited tolerance for extreme shenanigans.

October 2 isn’t the scariest film you will ever see, but it might give viewers some ideas for road trips. As an added bonus, we also get to watch champion competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi scarfing zombie brains. It is hard to formulaic a precise reaction to the sequel, but we are definitely curious to see where it might go from here. Recommended as an eventual stream on Netflix or Shudder, The Houses October Built 2 opens today (9/22) in New York, at the Village East.