Fantastic Fest: ‘The American Scream’ is a Heartfelt Look at Backyard Haunted Houses

By  · Published on October 26th, 2012

Editor’s Note: The gang covering Fantastic Fest really loved this one, and now it’s playing on the Chiller network on October 28th, 8pm EST before hitting theaters in November. If you can’t find an upcoming screening near you, you can request one through Tugg. Here’s another chance to read Luke’s review…

The world is pretty much made up of two kinds of people, those who have seen Troll 2 and those who haven’t seen Troll 2… yet. But thanks to filmmaker and former Troll 2 star Michael Paul Stephenson, more and more people have recently become exposed to Troll 2 through his documentary about being a part of the infamously terrible film, Best Worst Movie. Best Worst Movie was such a fascinating film that fans have been anxiously awaiting Stephenson’s second project. Thankfully, he doesn’t disappoint and his second documentary, The American Scream is another captivating window into a world of passionate fans.

The documentary focuses on three families, all of whom are considered home haunters. A home haunter is essentially an individual or family who goes above and beyond the normal Halloween decorating and creates a world for children and neighbors to experience. These are the folks that go that extra mile to ensure that each Halloween is a special one. And they each do that in their own way.

First up and the main focus of the documentary is the Bariteau family. Led by Victor, the dad, the Bariteau’s put on a professional looking walk-through style haunted house in the backyard each Halloween and they’ve been doing so for almost a decade. Victor’s eldest daughter is perhaps his most loyal partner in crime though his wife Tina and their younger daughter certainly pitch in the closer the calendar gets to the 31st. But it’s Victor and Katherine that are the true workhorses and masterminds behind the Bariteau haunt.

Next is the Souza family. Led by Manny, the Souza’s haunt is a bit more creative, fashioning many of the pieces from what appears to be garbage and leftovers and found items. Manny is a true creative craftsman, able to see the scary potential in anything no matter how junky it may appear to others. The result is a haunt that may not be at the same quality level as the Bariteau’s, but is filled with heart. It’s actually surprising how great Manny’s haunt looks when compared with the early shots of what he used to build it. He’s truly a very talented individual.

Last but certainly not least is the Brodeur family. Tagteamed by the father and son duo of Rick and Matt, the Brodeur’s haunt is perhaps the least impressive on a technical level, but filled with just as much heart as either of the previous haunts. Rick and Matt tend to snipe at each other a bit, but they clearly love each other very much and it’s obvious that they’re doing this for the love of it and no other reason. The smiles of the children are plenty of payment for the Brodeur boys and you can see them continuing each year despite their minor frustrations.

The American Scream showcases three different families with a dedication to scaring their neighbors. While the Bariteau’s are moving into the world of professional haunting, the Souza’s and Brodeur’s are keeping the fires burning for the passion of creating home haunts. Clearly a labor of love from all involved, The American Scream is a warm and touching look at three families doing what they love with what they have.

The Upside: Well shot and well balanced editing gives plenty of time and space to each story. The passion comes across on screen.

The Downside: Not being able to reach through the screen and help the haunters when they need it.

On the Side: Ghoulie Manor, the professional haunt run by Victor and his family is now open for business in Massachusetts. Follow them on Twitter @ghouliemanor.