I got an interesting little ditty shipped to me the other day in the form of Halloween…The Happy Haunting of America: 10th Anniversary Collector’s Edition. It’s a very nice package for fans of the documentary and is certainly something fun to watch or give as a gift with the holiday approaching.
In a nutshell, the film finds hosts Daniel Roebuck (Lost, The Devil’s Rejects) and Bob Burns traversing the country looking for the most impressive haunted houses and talking with historians and a horror who’s who about the origins and traditions of Halloween. The impressive guest list features Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Doug Bradley (Hellraiser), Alice Cooper, and Angus Scrimm (Phantasm) among others. Interspersed among these segments are bits of comedy, including the film’s mascot characters, Dr. Shocker, Igor, and Tracy the Gorilla.
Having looked at the packaging and read the descriptions, I was slightly disappointed after watching the actual film, as I was hoping for something with a little more substance and what I got was fairly breezy. I don’t think this should be taken as a bad thing…this DVD certainly serves a purpose and serves it well, but it’s not exactly hard hitting documentary filmmaking.
Roebuck and Burns serve as charismatic hosts and really, what horror fan doesn’t want to hear Angus Scrimm and Robert Englund’s Halloween memories? This part of the film is great because these men and all of the other guest contributors are a huge part of what the celebration of Halloween is today and it’s enchanting to hear what it was like for them to celebrate the holiday. The film would also be really helpful for someone wanting to travel around to the better haunted houses of the country; these segments function like a travel channel special on haunted houses (in a good way).
I don’t want to rag on the film too much, but my main complaint with it is that it often feels more like a venue for product placement than it does documentary. This is a double edged sword, because an extended sequence on Don Post Studios is pretty informative but at the same time, it feels too convenient; such is the case with many of the products featured in the film.
Beyond the film, the DVD carries a large amount of special features. The most notable is entitled “Halloween…The Happy Haunting of America 10th Anniversary Edition Presented from the Magic Castle”, which features new footage of Roebuck at The Magic Castle in Hollywood, introducing the viewer to 10 new haunted houses/attractions. This feature is pretty long and is in some ways almost a sequel to ‘Happy Haunting’. My favorite feature was a pilot for Chuck Williams and Daniel Roebuck’s show “Raw Talk”, which is comparable to an all-horror version of Jon Favreau’s “Dinner for Five.” On this edition they have guests John Gulager (Feast), Tony Todd (Candyman), Don Coscarelli (Phantasm), and Christa Campbell (2001 Maniacs). Other features include Behind the Scenes footage, a blooper reel, photo montages, and a whole lot more of Dr. Shocker among others.
While this isn’t high art, this DVD is indeed a quick, fun watch with the Halloween season approaching. If you’re unable to check it out before this year’s All Hallow’s Eve, pick it up and get hyped for the next year. After all, you might as well know a little bit about the Holiday you love to celebrate right?