As an avid haunt-goer and true Halloween lover, I was equally thrilled and terrified by Bobby Roe’s 2014 found footage documentary style film THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT. That thrill and terror all came rushing back to me when I caught word that a sequel was in the works, and again when I had the chance to see it this week.

In THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2, Brandy, Bobby, Zack, Mikey, and Jeff invite us into their RV once again on another cross country haunt tour that makes for a sequel that’s even more bonkers than the first. The sequel is a direct continuation of the original, literally picking up right where the first film left off. The film starts off by giving answers to some unanswered questions (which were also given in the film’s trailer), and then quickly jumps to exactly one year later, after the events of the first film took place. As the group knits itself back together, some of its members are more reluctant than others to hop back into the RV. Let’s be real, I think we all know who’s got the cold feet of the group after what happened last time, but reluctant or not, we eventually get to see the group together again, ready to take on another Halloween adventure. Not unlike its predecessor, the film (and the group) takes us through a variety of haunt experiences, beginning with some of the more mild choices and progressing into the more extreme immersive experiences. Something this film does really well right off the bat in its continuation of the story is its refusal to ignore the events of the previous film, as well as the effects those events had on the characters. Brandy is obviously still very shaken and traumatized from the events that took place a year ago and she very openly discusses these feelings. Watching a character struggle and work through something makes them that much more believable and relatable.

A few minutes into the sequel, I worried that the film might get too caught up trying to fit the mold of the original, but those worries quickly faded when the group arrived at their first stop, Scream Town, and I had the realization that I would be happy to follow this group of five friends just about anywhere. However, the extremely natural on-screen chemistry and believable performances aren’t the only thing that this sequel has going for it. THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 hugely steps up its cinematography game from the first, including the addition of a drone (which we actually get to see on-screen, given as a gift to Jeff). Let me tell you, I am a sucker for those gorgeous aerial shots and the addition of the drone camera made this found footage film feel like anything but that. I’m only now realizing this after having revisited the original as a refresher just before watching the sequel, but THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT films may be some of my very favorite of the found footage genre. These two films so effectively and appropriately utilize this style of filmmaking and I’m never left feeling annoyed by stereotypical found footage tropes like a too-shaky pov or the camera being fumbled and dropped too many times. This style of filmmaking works for these films because this is the exact kind of story that you’d actually want to experience from a first person perspective. Haunt experiences are meant to be immersive, they’re meant to literally be walked through, so joining the group in this way is just about the closest we can get besides actually being there.

Speaking of actually being there, another thing I love about these films is the usage of actual haunts and real scare actors, so everything you see at these locations are the real deal. If the haunt manager is being interviewed, you’re hearing the actual words of that real life haunt manager. In fact, both films include a list of all the haunts they visit, following the credits, so fans can actually go on a haunt tour of their own. This is such a great touch for so many reasons. Not only is it great publicity and a great way to show thanks to these haunts, some of which I never would have heard of if it weren’t for these films, but it’s also just one more way that we as viewers are made to feel like we’re really along for the ride–and what a bonkers ride it is.

THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 pulls out all the stops, including some pretty exciting surprise moments and twists that made me gasp out loud. It’s fun, genuinely creepy, and makes for the perfect holiday film for the Halloween season. If you want to experience this brand new Halloween adventure first hand, catch it in select theaters or on VOD, Friday, September 22.

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