The beginning of autumn always comes with the same signals and trappings: leaves changing colors, the temperature taking a nosedive, and a glut of horror movies being dumped into cinemas. Most of the fare that darts in and out of the theaters is mostly forgettable, the film industry equivalent of clickbait. However, The Houses October Built manages to distinguish itself from the pack with its mix of real documentary footage and fictional elements to tap into our cultural fascination with making ourselves scared. In Houses, a group of friends set out in an RV to find the scariest haunted houses Texas has to offer. Brandy Schaefer is one of those brave souls who sets out on a quest that turns south rather quickly. Schaefer chatted with us about how she became involved with the project, how it shifted from documentary to full-tilt horror movie, and what frightened her as a youngster.

Schaefer was brought into the making of Houses by way of her friendship with childhood friends. “I have known [Houses actor] Mikey [Roe], [Houses director and actor] Bobby [Roe], and [Houses actor] Zack [Andrews] since high school in Plano, Texas,” she explains. “My part in the documentary came from a need of a female to run around with them in an RV to interview people who run haunted houses and they knew I would do it. But then it morphed into something else”

That change came with the involvement of Paranormal Activity executive producer Steven Schneider, who watched the documentary and liked what he saw. “The entire documentary was finished,” Schaefer says. “Steven came in and put his magic touch on the film, making into more of a horror movie. And we got backing for the film.” Luckily, when Schaefer and her co-stars had to shoot more scenes during the transformation of the movie from documentary to thriller, she didn’t have to shift her approach to shooting.

“We already had that camaraderie from being friends and working on the documentary and they didn’t want us playing fictitious roles when the film took the horror route,” she explains. “We are still reacting and being in the moment.” Part of that staying in the moment was put to the test when, at one point, she is being buried in a box. While she says she’s not claustrophobic, she says, “I know that it’s not real, but it was scary knowing that it could go south at any time.”

Schaefer was also able to tap into her past experiences with haunted houses to prepare for her involvement in the documentary-turned-horror movie. “When you’re growing up in Texas, going to haunted houses is just what you did,” she says. “But until the movie, I hadn’t been to a haunted house for a really long time.” She reminisces about those old haunted houses she visited as a kid, saying, “Our parents would have to drive at least 45 minutes to those haunted houses in Texas. In Los Angeles, it’s totally different. The theme parks like Six Flags have horror nights, but it’s a different experience when you have to go to the middle of nowhere to a place where the whole thing is built around a haunted house.”

You can see if Brandy Schaefer gets her fill of haunted houses in The Houses October Built, which is now in theaters and available through VOD.