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Fantastic Fest 2012: Capone says the great haunted house doc THE AMERICAN SCREAM puts the Fs back in Fun, Fear, and Fairhaven!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

One of my favorite films from this year's Fantastic Fest was a sweet, funny and sometimes disturbing documentary about a few of the fine folks of Fairhaven, MA, who design and execute some of the most elaborate and scary haunted houses (knows as "haunts") right in their own homes for one night only. To make the film just a little more interesting, THE AMERICAN SCREAM is the latest directing effort from Michael Paul Stephenson, director of the in-depth look at the TROLL 2 phenomenon, BEST WORST MOVIE. Between the two films, Stephenson shows that he has a real gift at getting people to open up to him and share their best and worst behaviors in front of his camera.

Stephenon focuses on three families in Fairhaven who live mere blocks from each other, although the true centerpiece of the film belongs to Victor Bariteau and his wife and two young daughters, all of whom take part (some reluctantly) in the conception and building of the haunted house, perhaps the most elaborate private haunt I've ever seen. Victor spends months preparing, designing, building and rehearsing for Halloween night, and the closer he gets to the date, the more bossy and self-absorbed he becomes. His sainted wife is used to it and barely complains; his kids are less tolerant. But as a long-time IT guy for a big company who's on the verge of losing his job due to cutbacks, Victor dreams of running a professional spook house. One of his daughters is particularly into horror, and watching her get creative and disgusting with the house designs, I got emotional.

The other two families belong to Manny Souza, who has a much more laid-back approach to his construction—if it gets done, great; if not, that's great too. Manny is type of guy who loves everybody and everybody loves in return. He provides a great deal of perspective on the neighborhood (which still has evening trick-or-treating on Halloween night) and the types of people that live there. The final family is the Brodeurs—Rick and Matt, father and son, who rely on more handmade haunted house props and effects (which break down or just plain break with an alarming regularity), but put a great deal of their awkward selves into everything they put on display.

THE AMERICAN SCREAM is as much about smalltown America as it is about haunted houses, and it succeeds on both levels. You will laugh a lot watching this movie, but you'll also experience tension as the clock runs out on construction of these wonders. And there's a real emotional kick as the true nature of some of the relationships on display is slowly revealed. But mostly the film celebrates creativity, family bonds, and a true sense of community. It made me proud to be a horror-loving American.

The film plays on the Chiller network in the week leading up to Halloween, but prior to and after that run, it's playing in select theaters across the country. In Chicago, THE AMERICAN SCREAM is playing a series of midnight screenings at the Music Box Theatre leading up to Halloween, including this weekend. You should not miss this great heart-warming experience about creating fun and fear in your community.

-- Steve Prokopy
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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 6, 2012, 12:21 a.m. CST

    I really. really want to see this movie.

    by moonlightdrive

    I love Halloween, as does my wife. I think that when we eventually get to see this movie, we'll really enjoy it. I just hope that chance comes sooner rather than later.

  • Oct. 6, 2012, 11:21 a.m. CST

    this line confused me....

    by Bouncy X

    which still has evening trick-or-treating on Halloween night

  • Oct. 6, 2012, 11:22 a.m. CST didnt post my whole entry..well fuck it. lol

    by Bouncy X

  • Oct. 7, 2012, 2:05 a.m. CST

    RE: bouncy x

    by Capone

    A lot of cities/towns don't allow trick or treating on after dark or on actual Halloween night. Individual communities designate a couple of hours during daylight hours on a weekend. But in Fairhaven, trick or treating happens on Halloween night after dark; it's a pleasant throwback to a safer time.

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 8:05 a.m. CST

    Treat or Treating...

    by Jaffa

    I live in Massachusetts....I guess there's been some towns that changed the rule, but I've lived in a few differnt towns and cities here and it's always been on Oct 31st - after the sun sets. weird.