Halloween typically pumps out guts and gore but director Michael Stephenson (“Best Worst Movie”) injects charm and sentiment into an otherwise fright-filled holiday with “The American Scream, ” a documentary that explores the phenomenon of “home haunting” in the small town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
Every year, Victor Bariteau, Manny Souza and father/son team, Richard and Matthew Brodeur, set out to construct their own elaborate haunted house walk-through to garner screams and surprise from family, friends and neighbors. Filling their yards with cobwebs and crafted corpses, the film follows each family as they struggle to bring their ghoulish fantasies to life.
Digging deeper than the obstacles of constructing a foam tombstone, Stephenson champions each family, exposing the sentiment behind the tradition. He makes you root for Souza, the junkyard diver who skillfully constructs his backyard haunt with PVC pipe and a few extra bucks and the Brodeur team who gloriously fumble around with their props and each other.
But Stephenson ultimately focuses on Victor Bariteau, the home haunter yearning to go pro, working endlessly and meticulously all year, exhausting every effort, resource and dollar to perfect his horrifying fantasy world, claiming, “It’s what I should be doing.” With this, Stephenson unfolds and explores the sweet study of man with a not-so typical dream and all he’s willing to give up to achieve it.
Paired with a cute Burton-esque score, Stephenson captures the tender side of Halloween with three families who live to scare.