Just in time for the Halloween season, the newest tale of horror and macabre takes place in everyone’s favorite seasonal attraction, the Haunted House. Five friends embark on a haunted trip in 2013 to find the ultimate horror attraction, but what they find is far more traumatizing than they expected. As they come across numerous haunted houses throughout Texas and Louisiana they interview the creepiest and most demonic individuals employed by these houses. Are these attractions built just for the normal adrenaline junkie or is there a darker secret waiting inside? This movie touches on many of the questions I have been asking myself for years walking through haunted houses. As a paying customer do we really trust the person behind the mask scaring us, or are they truly insane? This documentary style film answers some of these questions, and in my opinion is something truly unique in the horror genre. The audience is given admission to many Haunted attractions throughout the south with point-of-view camera angles, real actor interviews, and hundreds of blood curdling screams. Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse was a fictitious film back in 1981 that touched on the same subject, but with a non-believable monster lurking within the shadows. What makes this film more authentic is the touch of realism and dementia that resides in America’s backyard that only comes out thirty-one days a year. This is as real as movies come and people should be aware of their surroundings because they don’t know if the masked ghoul is an actor or a crazy convict on the run.
Nerdlocker (NL): How did you get involved with this film?
Brandy Schaefer (BS): All of us that are in the film, except for Jeff, are all from the same hometown in Plano, Texas. We have all known each other forever and went to high school with Mikey and knew his older brother, Bobby. That’s how I got associated with this group of people and went to college for communication and Journalism. Originally this started off as a documentary and they needed someone to interview all the scare actors. They knew me and would be the only girl that would go on a road trip with four boys. I am not much of a girly girl, but I do like makeup, but when you hang out with boys for long periods of time, you start to talk differently. I started cursing a lot more and saying things in a different way, but they are like my brothers and couldn’t pass it up.
NL: Many successful horror movies have used the documentary style of filming, such as Paranormal Activity, why did this movie choose this style or go in that direction?
BS: I think the idea was the more real it is, the scarier it is, and doesn’t have to use gore. It’s more on a psychological level and not just a slasher flick. People are out there with built up rage from a long stressful day, and take it out in the Haunted House. To me, that’s freaky to know that you don’t know what you are going to get when you walk into the doors. There are people that actually live for this stuff, put on the make up, and take out all of their aggression while playing these characters. For us, we really wanted to make it believable and to me, that’s the scariest thing moving forward. In my perspective, this gives me a totally different outlook of haunted houses, and will for the rest of my life.
NL: Was it difficult to shoot in this type of haunted house atmosphere with all the actors in the houses and people jumping out at you?
BS: We had an amazing film crew and were really great with getting all the angles of the haunted house. When we were going through these haunted houses, we weren’t given the guided tour; they didn’t shut down the attraction down for us, or turn the lights on. Some situations we did get there a little early, but on most occasions, we went in the house as is, and as everyone else would. They didn’t treat us differently and those scare actors were doing what they normally do, so it was up to our crew to follow along and act as another body. I hope that this plays out as if the viewer were walking through the haunted house and hopefully no one gets nauseous.
NL: Are you a fan of the Halloween season, and these types of houses?
BS: I’m a fan-ish, but Mikey and Bobby are all about it. They plan their Halloween costume in January and I am not on their level, but I like going to Haunted Houses and getting scared. It’s a love/hate relationship and I watch horror movies when someone is around, but it’s not my first choice. Yes, I am a horror fan, but not at the level as other people in the film.
NL: The scene with the porcelain doll in the house creeped me out. Was their any specific scenes that still gives you the creeps and why?
BS: She was really freaky, but for me, that moment when all the scare actors are surrounding the RV was the scariest. These are people we didn’t know and aren’t actors, they happened to be there the day of filming. The lights turned on and all the scare actors were standing there, and for an instance, you forget that you are actually filming.
NL: One of the interviews was with a haunted house manager in regards to hiring actors for these haunted attractions and not conducting background checks. Do you think this will make audiences more aware or cautious of what may be hiding behind the doors of these houses?
BS: I definitely think so; this is one instance where they don’t need a background check. I am not saying that they need a Haunted House Commission and all that stuff, but I think it’s interesting and the audience will flag it. You don’t know who these people are and all we know, they could be on the run, and what better way to hide then to wear a mask all the time. You have no idea and is the scariest part about it. With sexual predators, you can look up everyone on a website and can’t go anywhere near children and schools. You never know what mental state these people are in and I am not saying everyone is crazy; there are people that genuinely love doing this type of work. But there are other people that are not doing it for the healthiest of reasons. I think that is the thrill of this whole attraction because you don’t know if you are getting a Disneyland actor or someone that is not mentally stable.
NL: The movie was shot in the backwoods of Texas and you come across a lot of twisted haunted houses. Are there any specific ones you would you re-visit or take your friends to and scare the shit out of them?
BS: Yes, for me, Zombie Manor outside of Dallas, Texas was my favorite. You open the door and people are literally jumping out at you, so it really scared me, and they did a really good job with that house.
NL: As an actress, what is your process when going into a film, especially a horror film like this?
BS: Well it started off as a documentary and started off natural for me to play myself. But when the producer came onto the film, it transitioned into a horror film. We were honest and played ourselves and had the comradery between all of us from growing up together. So it was about being honest with reacting and portraying myself. Any fictional scene was about being in that moment and for me what works best. Being honest, in the moment, and reacting to the situation as I am playing myself.
NL: Was there any funny stories while filming this?
BS: I guess the one I can think of is at Zombie Manor and the boys played a prank on me. We were rolling around in the RV and went back after filming for the day. The boys got the biggest Zombie scare actor they could find and hid him in the RV. He was hiding in the very back of the RV and when I was going to change, he came out in complete darkness, and I freaked out. On their end, it was one of the funniest moments while filming, but we had a lot of good laughs.
NL: What is the overall message you think this movie is trying to relay? Or what did you personally get out of this film?
BS: The overall message is just bringing awareness to this side of Halloween. It’s an area that everyone loves, but it’s an area that people haven’t looked at with a microscope. They haven’t gone behind the mask and shined a light on it. Haunted Houses are a thriving business in October that scare millions of people worldwide. This is what these people do for a living and we wanted to dive deeper into that.
NL: Will you be dressing up or attending any haunted houses this Halloween season?
BS: It all depends on where we are at and like dressing up. It’s normally someone else in charge, and my group of girlfriends and I dress up together. Last year we were all Robert Palmer girls for “Simply Irresistible.” I am not sure what is in store for this year because I live in Los Angeles and Hollywood is always a good time for Halloween. We were filming in New Orleans on Halloween and are even crazier than Mardi Gras with people dressed up everywhere. We put in the effort for the costumes and I have painted myself blue as an Avatar.
NL: Do you have any upcoming films or projects?
BS: Nothing right now, but the boys are about Houses 2, so we will see if that happens.
I am giving The Houses October Built a 3.5 out of 5 Nerd Skulls.
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