Saturday, 30 January 2016

the houses of halloween

the houses of halloween follows a group of five friends on a road trip who intend to visit as many horror haunts as possible in the run up to halloween. as halloween creeps closer the friends discover that the most extreme haunt of all may be coming to them.

i've only been to a couple of of halloween haunts, the short-lived 'fear' in brighton and death trap in london. i think they're great, they're like real-life horror films, i'd love to go to more. i'm also kind of obsessed with mckamey manor and yes, i have asked to be added to the waiting list although i have no idea how i'd actually get there right now. i keep hoping someone will open something similar in the uk. anyway, my point is, i love the idea of halloween haunts so a movie about people looking for the most extreme haunt ever was very appealing to me.

the first hour of the film almost plays like a documentary, with the cast visiting what are presumably real haunts intercut with interviews with participants and the people who run the attractions. as the group move from haunt to haunt they hear about a legendary attraction called the blue skeleton, said to be the most extreme haunt ever. before long they are following a trail of clues and soon find themselves face-to-face with a group of terrifying individuals who may or may not be actors.

aside from the haunts and the found footage format, this film really reminded me of the texas chainsaw massacre. there's a sense of moving into uncharted territory as they travel deeper into the less populated regions of america, and a creeping dread that anything can happen out there. this idea of moving closer to something truly terrifying is what drives the film forward and is handled quite effectively, particularly when the same haunt actors seem to appear at different locations. there's one especially terrifying creature, a doll-like girl with a porcelain face, who provides some of the scariest moments in the film.

that said, when they eventually find the blue skeleton i found it a little anti-climactic. maybe it's because i've seen so much more extreme stuff happening in the mckamey manor videos or maybe it's because so much of the final sequence is shot in almost pitch black darkness, but it didn't seem as scary as some of the real haunts they'd seen on the road. i think the real problem here is that the houses of halloween doesn't quite know what it is. the documentary-like portions of the film lack structure and sometimes feel more like an afterthought than part of the film. in some ways i would have preferred it if the five friends had been an actual documentary crew with the aim of investigating these places rather than some buddies looking for extreme scares. at the same time, the narrative doesn't feel fully committed either, partly because none of the characters really have any development or arc. as a result it often feels like we're just waiting for something to happen to them and i'll be honest, i didn't care about them all that much when they were supposedly in real danger.

while the end result isn't perfect, i did really enjoy watching this film and i thought the cast and crew did a great job at making it feel authentic. it certainly made me want to do what they did - a halloween haunt road trip sounds like the perfect holiday to me.

the found footage blogathon will run from 27th january to 3rd february, in which time i plan to review as many films as possible and maybe throw in a few extras as well. if you'd like to be involved and post your own content, send me a link via twitter with the tag #foundfootageblogathon. i'll retweet your link and will include it in a summary post next week. you can find a full list of the films i'll be reviewing here.

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