“The Houses October Built”: Alumni create film

Director, co-star and alumnus Bobby Roe guides a scare actor through a scene. We didn’t go off and hire actors to be scare actors, he said. We wanted to use the real guys.

Submitted by Susan Clarke

Director, co-star and alumnus Bobby Roe guides a scare actor through a scene. “We didn’t go off and hire actors to be scare actors,” he said. “We wanted to use the real guys.”

Bags cover their faces. Now, they’re on equal ground with their captors, whose faces they never saw. They feel the barrel of a shotgun on their waist. They’re thrown in boxes, thrown down the hallway – and then they’re released. The friends go home laughing, because they got exactly what they wanted. In fact, they paid to be placed near death.

Premiering Oct. 10, the film “The Houses October Built” mixes a narrative of five friends on an RV road trip with genuine footage of haunted houses and scare actor interviews. The friends, four of whom are alumni, explore the idea that no one really knows the people behind the masks as they attempt to find the most intense scare of their lives.

“This guy we interviewed said, ‘we’re doing everything but gang raping people,’” Bobby Roe, director and co-star, said. “And he’s serious. He wants to do anything in his power to scare us. That’s how far some of these guys are going.”

The friends got footage for the movie by filming themselves inside real haunted houses. Previously, this footage was compiled in a documentary. All of the actors who play scary characters in both movies also scare people every year at haunted houses. One character that haunts both the group and the audience throughout the movie can be found as near as The Haunt House in Caddo Mills, Texas.

“We wanted to do a movie that actually celebrates the holiday in the best way that we celebrate it, which is by going to haunted houses,” co-star Zack Andrews said. “We wanted that authenticity.”

One scare actor, who goes by ‘Mr. Pickles,’ originally gave the group permission to film him and his co-workers. However, he changed his mind very quickly, getting angry and leading to a scene in the movie where he is screaming at them to leave. In an additional deleted scene that will be on the blue-ray disk, Mr. Pickles tells the gang he has four personalities.

“It was borderline schizophrenic,” Bobby said. “Drop of the hat, he changed personalities and freaked out on us. But it’s his profession.”

In addition to horrific scenes, the creators of the film included moments of comedy. As the group interacted with each other on their road trip, both planned and improvised light-hearted moments were present. For example, co-star Jeff Larson wrote a rap about haunted houses on the road and performed it for the camera.

“We weren’t even planning on that being a scene,” Bobby said. “But we decided to let him go and see what would happen. We needed some chemistry to be right.”

The actors said this yearning for balance was the reason why they decided to work with people they had known since high school. Andrews and Bobby graduated in 1997, while co-stars Brandy Schaefer and Bobby’s brother Mikey Roe graduated in 1999.

“When you make these types of movies, it takes so much time to try to make it realistic,” Bobby said. “We needed to just come in with people that have a connection you can feel on screen. Hopefully that’s the thing that kind of triggers you to go ‘wait, I don’t know exactly if this is real or fake.’”

Part of the believability comes from the actors’ – especially Schaefer’s – true reactions of terror. Although she said she loves haunted houses, she was not involved in the original film planning.

“They kind of tricked me,” Schaefer said. “It’s a work out. It’s hard for me. I come out of there and I’m tired and I’ve been scared 85 billion times. By the end of it, I was like ‘you guys have to go first, I can’t go first anymore.’ But I’m always willing to do it again.”

While Schaefer was the main on-screen screamer, she wasn’t the only one to be frightened by their excursions. Once, the owners of a haunted house separated the group. Zack did not see anyone until the end, but Mikey had gotten so lost in a house that he just sat down and waited until Bobby found him there.

“I couldn’t get out,” Mikey said. “I had given up. I was like, ‘this is it, I’m going to die in here.’”

In addition to allowing themselves to be scared multiple times for the haunted house scenes, they worked hard on additional filming that was done in LA. Bobby said Schaefer was put through the wringer the most.

“I just black everything out,” Schaefer said. “If you’re in the moment, it might be freezing and you’re in a tank top or you’re drenched in blood and you’re thinking, ‘oh, God,’ but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The group has made it through the horrors, for now, and is now touring and promoting their film. For their main event, they will take their RV up the mountain to open the Telluride Horror Festival in Colorado. It is their stop in Dallas, however, that they said is really a stop in the haunt capital of the world.

“There are underground places,” Andrews said. “Really extreme places.”

Although they are involved in spreading the word about the film, the group said that for the horror genre, the premise sells the movie more than the actors involved. Their premise addresses a very real issue.

“The haunt world is so extensive,” Bobby said. “The haunt actors are taking it to the brink of what is legal and what isn’t. I wouldn’t be shocked if two years from now you hear of maybe even an accident.”

Through the film, the crew said they are both supporting the haunt world and warning the audience of dangers in an industry where background checks are not conducted and where something frightening can turn into something actually dangerous.

“There’s definitely more story to tell,” Mikey said. “We can set you up with a ride, if you want.”