One of my favorite nights of the year, along with many horror fans, is Halloween. There is just something magical about the night. Granted, the whole month is great for horror fans because usually as a grown up that means we will be will be asked for movie advice or what to do in order to celebrate the month and Halloween. For eleven months out of the year, we may be looked at differently by the general public but for October we seemly feel that we become important. The American Scream is a documentary, which spans over the whole month of October, about three groups of home haunters build up their haunts and their props while trying to balance their normal lives. Home Haunters are a unique blend of people who love Halloween or maybe just the thrill that it gives them when they become a main focus for one night of the year and have an interest in building something on their own. Home Haunting can either be a interesting thing for people who like to build and can incorporate that into their haunts or start to gain interest in construction and engineering because they want to make their haunt better.
First we are introduced to Victor Bariteau who is the man who seems to have kick started the whole home haunt movement on his block. By day, Victor works as a systems administrator who has been doing home haunting for the 18 years he has owned the current house he and his family reside in. When Victor isn’t working his day job, he is constantly working on his home haunt. While he does have some friends that help him and a wife that seems to help with most of the costuming, his haunt is pretty much a one-man operation. Two blocks away, Manny Souza transforms his backyard into a home haunt. He began to do home haunting because he saw all the attention Victor was receiving during Halloween plus the fact that he has fun doing it. They don’t seem to be in competition with each other but his haunt almost seems to be an extension of Victor’s and more of a contribution to have a whole street of home haunts. Even further down the road you have a father and son team in Matt and Richard Brodeur. Some viewers might see each family later introduced as a VHS generation copy of the previous family introduced but director Michael Stephenson tries his best to tell each family’s story evenly but the observation will definitely be unavoidable.
Bariteau tends to go the custom yet professional approach with his haunt. Opting out of using manufactured or pre-built props and instead creating custom props as opposed to the other two families. Bariteau seems to be the main focus of this documentary. That’s not to say that Stephenson and the crew leave the other families to the wayside but it is obvious that the main focus is with the man who seems to have started it on his block. The film is relatable to horror fans in the sense that we focus, much like Bariteau, on the genre all year round. It is our life. But for that one month out of the year, other people come into our life, into our passion and have a genuine interest in it. However, once November 1st rolls around, all that interest is gone for another 11 months for the people that were looking into our lives and interests.
One of my initial concerns with the film was that this is Stephenson’s follow up to his first documentary Best Worst Movie which was a documentary where the subject was a film that he starred and was involved in. However, Stephenson, as he did with Best Worst Movie, is able to capture the heart and passion of each and every subject in the documentary. Sure there are some comedic elements, mainly with the Brodeur family. While I would love to say we aren’t laughing at them but laughing with them as they figure out scenes in their haunt with a very basic approach, you do end up laughing at them in comparison to the other two subjects who seem to be a step above them with their builds. Once the big night rolls around, it is a magical thing. The community rounds together and goes in through each and every haunt and, in a sense, the subjects of the documentary are rock stars.
The American Scream is a heartwarming documentary that I plan on watching every Halloween. It reminds us grown-ups of why we love Halloween. For us horror fans, I bet you will see some of yourselves in these subjects as well. Seeing the hot breath out of people speaking hitting the cold air with the echoes of children screaming and yelling are just some of the things that I love about Halloween which is the spirit of Halloween and there is something invigorating about it. There is great fun to be had here and The American Scream is a monster kid’s dream documentary, no matter their age.
The American Scream premieres on the Chiller network on October 28th.