Just as the found footage movie looked to be taking its final breath, “The Houses October Built’ came along and provided horror fans with a unique angle on it as a group of friends ventured across America in search of the ultimate haunted house attraction. While the movie ended with these friends suffering a fate not all that different from what Gene Bervoets experienced in “The Vanishing,” “The Houses October Built 2” shows them to be alive and also internet superstars thanks to the videos of them being buried alive on YouTube. Vendors are now offering to pay them to visit Halloween haunts, and Zack, Bobby, Mikey and Jeff jump at the opportunity to cash in on their celebrity. Brandy, however, opts out as the trauma she suffered in the first film is something she is still coping with.
But alas, the Blue Skeleton, the group which takes the extreme haunt to another level and who kidnapped the group in the last film, are hot on their tails as they look determined to top everything they pulled off before. The stakes are raised even higher when Brandy changes her mind and decides to join her friends. But as they get closer and closer to the ultimate Halloween haunt known as Hellbent, one has to wonder if these friends will once again survive their haunted house travels, or will they instead meet their doom.
It was a pleasure speaking with “The House October Built 2’s” director, writer and star Bobby Roe recently, and he was joined by his co-star and co-writer Zack Andrews. As the original ended on an ambiguous note, coming up with a sequel must have been a serious challenge for them as you have to wonder what could possibly motivate these same characters to do another round of Halloween haunt exploring after the horrors they previously experienced. Both Bobby and Zack explained how they came up with the sequel, how they managed to find a way to get Brandy to rejoin her friends, and of the kind of Halloween haunts they wanted to explore this time around.
Check out the interview below:
Ben Kenber: This is a sequel I never thought would ever be made considering how the first film ended. With part two, you answered some questions which some may say would have been best left unanswered. When you were making the original, did you have a sequel to it in mind?
Bobby Roe: The haunt world is so huge, and we just wanted to be able to… Expanding is probably the primary goal of a sequel, expanding the world, and hopefully that is done with the Blue Skeleton. I know the ambiguity of the ending of part one is a real pro for some, and then for others, without having a bow on it, it was a real problem. So hopefully this part two services everyone. In some ways, it’s just about, at the end of the day, how extreme can you get.
Zack Andrews: I think the original stands on its own, but Bobby’s and my vision was always to have that kind of as an intermission and then have part two kind of pick up at that place and continue to tell the story and, as he was saying, that world is so big. In the first movie, we go to big businesses but they are more ma and pa operations. And in this film, as you can see, we kind of expand the world and end up at the Zombie Pup Crawl with 30,000 people. Just being able to see Halloween in a bigger scope, we continue to do that in this world.
Ben Kenber: After the first movie, you became celebrities to these Halloween haunts, and we can see this in part two. Did the first movie make going to these haunts easier or more challenging?
Bobby Roe: Sometimes it is more challenging because, if they recognize us, people try to up their game or at least make sure they are extra scary. Sometimes for us, we are thinking how far are people going to go. We received emails weekly since the first film came out which asked us to come and visit.
Zack Andrews: The community is… There are all these little families who come together to put these haunted houses on, and everybody has been really receptive to us through the first movie and the second movie. I think it is a win – win situation because they respect what we are trying to do by making the movie, and we respect their business. We love meeting all these people and coming into their world, and it feels like, so far, they like having us.
Ben Kenber: It certainly looks like they love having you guys around. When you were filming this sequel, did you talk with these Halloween haunt people ahead of time to let them know what you were going to do, or did you proceed incognito and went from there?
Bobby Roe: We had to go the legal route and get permission, but I think a lot of times they let us have free range which is really important because some of the sets were really beg. The owners, there is a lot of gratitude towards them because they have allowed us this blank slate on their haunts, and hopefully in return it brings a lot of business to them as well.
Ben Kenber: It’s amazing how big some of these haunts are, especially the haunted hay ride.
Zack Andrews: Oh yeah. It had thousands and thousands of people every night. That haunted hay ride was pretty awesome.
Ben Kenber: With this sequel, you are clearly moving on to bigger game as these haunts are much bigger than the ones we saw in the original. Were there any criteria you set for yourselves in terms of selecting haunts this time out?
Bobby Roe: It was important for us and to the characters’ story in there because of Brandy’s situation. Her deal for coming along is no haunted houses, so I think the guys try to loophole that by going to these more events until things go awry. So, to make her a little more comfortable, and we know that’s kind of a watermelon to swallow for the audience, why Brandy would come back having gone through the trauma that she did in part one, with her newfound success, with money or with whatever that you would think that character would eventually be brought back would ease her in. With these dark mazes and indoor haunts, as amazing as some of them are, they kind of bleed together on-screen. We thought using the Zombie 5K or the pub crawl would kind of give it a different range, and we made sure that it didn’t feel as episodic or that you were watching the same haunt over and over again. We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen.
Ben Kenber: I really dug the Marilyn Manson quote you opened this movie with: “Times have not become more violent. They have just become more televised.” What made you decide to use that quote?
Bobby Roe: We started part one with a quote that we felt summed up the entire movie really well, and that was the quote “I’m not afraid of werewolves or vampires or haunted houses. I’m afraid of what real human beings do to other real human beings” (Walter Jon Williams). That was what part one was, and I think for part two, this quote summed up everything we talked about, and I just thought it was very interesting on top of it being an influence on us and the macabre horror world as well. We always really liked Marilyn Manson.
Ben Kenber: Considering what the characters, especially Brandy, went through in the first film, it must have been very tricky to come up with a good story line in which they would go through a situation very similar to what they endured before. How long did it take you to come up with a good reason for Brandy to rejoin the group while writing this film?
Zack Andrews: Well we knew this, as Bobby said earlier, would be the biggest watermelon to swallow. Why in the world would she do this again? We show up at her house, and I would think that it’s kind of the roll your eyes moment of okay you are just going to convince her, so it was important to us to try and be as authentic as possible and have Brandy just say no, and then we go out on the road on our own. But when we can’t do what we have set out to do because they are not going to pay us, that felt like an authentic way to call back and do a little begging and pleading because that’s how this would go down in real life (laughs).
Bobby Roe: Exposition in found footage is very tough. If you play by the rules, it’s very hard to give people those side stories where there shouldn’t be a camera. We had early on in the script that she needed money for school, her mom was sick, things like that, and they just become heavy-handed than they would in a normal narrative. So we kind of just went the more organic route and just had her say no, and then when she’s coming around we understand that money comes into play. Hopefully you understand the chemistry and the love for everybody as friends, and I think she’s coming for Zach and I because we need it. She’s coming along and being a good friend, and at the end of the day the simplest answer is sometimes the correct one. So hopefully people understand her journey and why she came along with us.
Ben Kenber: This sequel has a number of different POV’s from the characters, Blue Skeleton, and of course the drone. What was it like balancing out those various POV’s?
Bobby Roe: Well you still have to be conscious of where the camera crew has the camera. If you have seen the movie, you can understand a little bit more, call it our cheats, about certain ones, but for the most part we played by the rules. The drone was a character, and we showed the opening of the drone and that Jeff got it as a present. We thought it would be really cool to have him pilot it in the RV, so all these great wide established shots that you see in every other movie with helicopters, why can’t you do that in found footage while you’re driving? We were able to drive it from inside the RV as long as the drone stays within a certain range from us and follow us and tail us. So that’s very realistic, so why can’t we get those big pretty shots that you can in these giant features? We wanted to make sure that it made sense and that you believe in it as an audience and who’s filming this. As long as you make the drone a character, then hopefully we have a bigger and wider scope in part two as much as we can get. When there were 30,000 zombies in Minneapolis, we wanted to capture that the best that we could, and that was from the sky.
Ben Kenber: Do you see yourselves making a part three?
Bobby Roe: The haunt world is so huge and vast that the story is not done as long as the Blue Skeleton is growing, and hopefully at some point the legend of the Blue Skeleton starts to grow bigger. There’s much more story to tell, and there’s definitely a lot more haunts to show.
Ben Kenber: Have you thought about going outside of America to other countries to explore their Halloween haunts?
Zack Andrews: No comment.
Bobby Roe: We have thought about that. Without saying too much, we went over to ScareCON in London and spoke to a bunch of haunted house owners last year and it was really cool to see their take on a holiday that’s way bigger in America, and they really embrace this culture all year. It’s not just Halloween. We experience some things over there I think people would want to see.
I want to thank Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews for taking the time to talk with me. “The Houses October Built 2” will open in theaters and be available On Demand/Digital HD on September 22, 2017.