Michael vs. Thomas: THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT and LAST SHIFT
Michael Rich and our Editor-in-Chief love horror films and hate each other. In the spirit of the great horror face-offs of history, they’ll be going toe-to-toe in the ring and covering the horror films of Netflix in Michael vs. Thomas.
Logline: They wanted to be scared. Really and truly scared. And, in the end, they got exactly what they came for.
Michael: THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT should have been awesome. The title is cool. The premise of extreme haunted houses that go too far is scary and original. But, there is no logic to this thing.
Thomas: I was similarly disappointed, but I may have had less problems with it than you did. The one major thing that was illogical for me was the little girl with the doll mask. Other than that I bought the general premise of them going from one haunt to another, and could even forgive the suspension of disbelief necessary for them to get in contact with Blue Skeleton (the final group of haunters). What did you have a problem with?
Michael: How did Blue Skeleton garner a reputation when they apparently murder their victims? There is hardly a plot. It’s just a collection of scenes with paper-thin characters walking through haunted houses.
Thomas: Well, before I come across as a champion of the film, I will admit that the ending was among the most tired and boring I’ve ever seen, and that I don’t consider it great by any means. However, I don’t know, I guess I bought into the fact that in indiscriminate Southern America there could be something crazy along the lines of a snuff haunted house. I thought the film did a good job of putting us in a world-of-story where everything’s run-down and destitute, which I thought fit in well with the premise of the similarly run-down haunted houses, fueled off of the unhinged nature of the performers. I guess it’s just coming out that secretly I’m really, really scared of haunted houses. That doll girl didn’t scare you at all?
Michael: No. The movie is a pseudo-remake of a 2011 film of the same name. The original has a terrifying glowstick scene, which they barely incorporated. Even as a frequent horror movie watcher, I consider myself easily scared. There was nothing here that made me jump.
Thomas: Nothing that made me jump, no, but I still felt intensely uneasy throughout the whole thing. I guess with a gun to my head, I would recommend this as a Netflix horror outing to those who find themselves dreading the annual invite to Hollywood Horror Nights.
Michael: I’ll tell you what would’ve made this movie great. *SPOILER ALERT* Blue Skeleton should have undug the characters’ graves, revealing themselves as actual, terrific haunted house makers. The buildup is weak. At least this would’ve been unexpected. By the way, you want to go to Universal Horror Nights this year?
Thomas: Already dreading it.
Logline: She’s alone, guarding an empty police station until hazardous materials are removed. If only she had known the truth
Thomas: I would make the claim that this is one of the true gems of Netflix horror. I think the atmosphere is great, the film wastes no time getting scary (within the first 10 minutes from what I recall), and even the ending doesn’t suck!
Michael: For the first 45 minutes, I thought LAST SHIFT was rough. The lead actress (Juliana Harkavy) did not look or sound like an authentic cop, even as a rookie. And I thought the scares were painfully generic. However, there was a major turning point for me with an incredibly creative scare involving an Officer Price. It literally turned my perception of the movie around. The second half is far superior to the first.
Thomas: Despite being a fan of the film, I have almost the exact opposite opinion. While I definitely agree that the Officer Price scene is the highlight of the film, I thought the film decreased in quality once they started trying to formulate an explanation for the hauntings. Although the second half was tense, I thought the beginning half had enough possible disturbing uncertainties to carry it through. Does every scare need to be innovative? I appreciated this film for not embracing a grimm–innovation…
Michael: Only once this movie started getting clever with its scares did I start to get into it. And most of the clever scares rose out of the story that was revealed in the latter part of the film. I was quite disturbed by the crime scene photos of the lead’s father because I was finally getting to know these characters a bit. The filmmakers knew how to ride the line between revealing too much corny, convoluted exposition, while adding some weight to the story.
Thomas: For me, her character was locked in enough by the fact that she needed to stay out her shift in order to move up in the ranks. I personally found the “character moments” half-assed and the less desirable parts of the script, although I suppose it motivated the somewhat surprising final scene. Regardless, we can at least agree that it was a great use of a small, contained set piece, yeah?
Michael: Definitely. But, why the hell didn’t she get out of their sooner? She has several opportunities to escape before the building locks her in and I don’t buy the reasons of why she chooses to stay.
Thomas: I originally envisioned myself being the bad cop to your good cop, but it would appear that I’m much more forgiving of horror films than you are. In any case, I would give this a recommend.
Michael: Is it possible to recommend only the second half of a movie? Ah, whatever. Give the whole thing a shot.