From Michael Stephenson (the director of Best Worst Movie), comes a new documentary, The American Scream – a celebration of the average Halloween fan who commits their own time and money into creating a local haunted house. While it lacks punch, there’s a profound sense of joy in watching these hard working individuals get the much-deserved spotlight they long for. Many want to be remembered, and Chiller (airing October 28) has landed them an eternal place in horror lore.
The American Scream follows the lives of a handful of American families who prepare, and launch, their local haunted houses. They sacrifice their house, their money and their family for an obsession that’s absurd when you think about the fact that it’s all for one night of attention. Still, the joy and happiness it brings the children makes it all worthwhile.
The biggest issue with the doc is that it’s a bit too rudimentary. It occasionally touches on family resentment (one wife says she didn’t want the house they have, and their daughter wishes she could have a tree house), but gets lost in showing the audience the construction and completion of the haunted houses. As a fan of documentaries, I wanted to see a bit of behind the scenes drama, like in Best Worst Movie when George Hardy starts to believe he’s a super star.
In the end, it’s obvious this was made to be a celebration of Halloween and not some in-depth look at the obsession of creating a local haunt. It’s the film’s biggest flaw, but also its most admirable trait. If anything, it’s about the American dream beyond the American dream, where the deep desire is to be remembered when you leave this Earth.