Bobby Roe is a writer, director, and actor who has worked on films like The Houses October Built and the upcoming Isolation anthology and A Wicked Tale. Roe recently shared some behind-the-scenes facts about what it takes to make a great horror movie. Ironically, there’s one thing some horror movie directors avoid using in their films to maintain their audience’s trust.
Bobby Roe wrote, directed, and starred in ‘The Houses October Built’
The Houses October Built is a 2014 horror film that follows a group of friends on the hunt for the scariest haunted houses in America. After visiting a few locations that claim to have terrifying haunts, the group finds themselves searching for the Blue Skeleton — a secret horror community rumored to use real body parts and torture methods to elicit scares. The horror community loved the movie so much, the sequel The Houses October Built 2 was released in 2017.
As a guest on the Lights, Camera, No podcast, Roe talked about the haunts he and his friends visited that inspired the film.
“We found out 35 million people go [to haunts and] spend $8 billion on Halloween — [there are] 3,000 haunted houses in the United States alone, and no one had ever put it on the big screen,” Roe said.
Roe took what he calls “the Borat approach” in creating the found-footage horror flick. “I can’t get the ‘That’s not what would really happen’ flack because that is what happened,” he said. By putting his actors in the middle of real scare environments, Roe created an authentic experience.
‘The Houses October Built’ movie almost didn’t happen
Today, The Houses October Built has a massive following and is celebrated by fans in the horror community. But in reality, the film almost didn’t get made. After shooting the film, Roe said studios left and right were turning the idea down.
“But when does the ghost come?” Roe recalled executives saying. “A lot of people in LA and New York don’t know how insanely awesome and crazy and wild the kids in the mid-west [haunt community are]. The haunted houses — they’re phenomenal, and there [are] 6,000 people there in one night.” Roe sought to celebrate those haunts, sans cheap scares and traditional ghosts.
Blood in found footage horror movies actually turns audiences off
Roe revealed something found footage horror movies stray away from.
“The second I show blood, I lose my audience,” Roe explained. Hypothetically, if the characters in Roe’s movie saw blood, they would say “‘Turn the camera off,’ or they’d go home,” as he pointed out. To maintain the trust of the audience, Roe avoided blood at all costs. “It was important for us to make sure you’re along [for] the ride,” Roe added.
There’s a line between showing the audience enough and showing too much, especially with found footage films. “[The] studio wanted blood,” Roe said. “I took blood out because it didn’t feel natural [in The Houses October Built.]”
Roe also put certain dialogue in the script to convince the audience to stick around. As the drama and suspense in the film ramps up, one of the characters points out how nothing had technically happened to them. For Roe, this simple line maintained the audience’s confidence in the characters and the overall experience — any fear built up at that point was all mental.
This state of mental anguish comes to viewers with little to no blood. And that’s part of what makes The Houses October Built such a beloved found footage movie.