Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The American Scream : Now On Netflix Instant!


My plan for tonight was to catch the documentary American Grindhouse on Netflix Instant, which I did.  Solid documentary, even though I've kinda had enough of watching the same people talk about the same topic.  But anyway, as I got ready to shut off Netflix and spend the rest of the night on the computer, I saw that The American Scream was also available for instant viewing, so naturally my plans went right out the window and I spent another hour and a half cuddled up on the couch, continuing my night of being a Stream Warrior (thanks for that, Kindertrauma!).

What is The American Scream, you ask?  It's the new documentary from Michael Paul Stephenson, who played little Joshua Waits in Troll 2 when he was a kid, and then directed the amazing 2009 documentary about the film, Best Worst Movie, as an adult.  The subject matter dealt with in American Scream?  Home haunters, the guys who spend months out of their year getting ready for Halloween, and turning their own front/back yards into haunted attractions.  American Scream premiered on the Chiller channel on October 28th, and is now widely available for viewing instantly on Netflix, and also On Demand through Amazon.

The documentary follows around three men from the same small town in Massachusetts as they prepare their homes for Halloween, exploring what home haunting means to each of them.  And what it means to each of them, though fairly similar, is also quite different.

There's Victor, the perfectionist whose home haunting hobby has become more of an obsession, a desire to not only make up for a childhood where he wasn't allowed to celebrate Halloween, but also give meaning to his life and leave behind his own unique thumbprint on the world.  Victor is more or less consumed by his passion to make his home haunt as perfect and as special as he can, even if it at times comes at the expense of his own mental health, and the financial well being of his family.  His ultimate dream?  To run his own professional haunted house, aspirations that his wife and children admirably support.

Then there's the class clowns of the documentary, Matt and his father Rick, best friends who use home haunting as more of a bonding experience than anything else.  Their main goal is to have fun, and unlike Victor, perfectionism is not something they strive for.  Quite the contrary.  For them, it's all about being together, and packing in as much father/son time as they possibly can, while they're both still around.  As Rick remarks in one particularly touching moment, the only time he and his son are not together is when his son goes on roller coasters, which Rick is not a fan of.

Finally we've got Manny, a father who is also in it for the fun, and more importantly, for creating positive lasting memories for his children and the other children in town.  While Victor's out there spending top dollar to make and buy incredible props, Manny's content with hand making cheap props out of junk he finds lying around, thereby keeping his hobby a hobby, rather than an expensive all consuming obsession.

Though the methods to their madness are a bit different, what unites these three Clark Griswolds of Halloween is their passion, a passion for Halloween and for keeping the spirit of the holiday alive, and making it as much fun for the neighborhood children as they possibly can.  That's really what the documentary is all about, and where the true heart of it lies.

I never would've expected the kid who peed on the dinner table in Troll 2 to grow up to be an incredible documentary filmmaker, but that's precisely what has become of Michael Paul Stephenson.  Much like Best Worst Movie, American Scream is a heartwarming and tear jerking documentary about a topic you wouldn't necessarily expect to be either of those things, a result of Stephenson's clearly genuine interest in people, and what makes them tick.  This isn't just a documentary about people setting up cool Halloween displays at their homes, like a show you'd see on TV in October, but rather it's about the bigger picture of what drives these people to do what they do, and why doing it brings so much joy to their lives, and to the lives of others as well.

For these guys, much like for most of us, Halloween and all things horror are a nice escape from their everyday problems and boring soul draining 9-5 jobs, and it's really a beautiful thing to see people putting so much time and effort into their dreams and their passions, even though they're seeing no monetary gain from it.  That's really what struck a chord with me about the documentary, and put a big ole jack o'lantern smile on my face.  In a world where so many get beaten down by day to day life, to the point that they lose sight of the things that make them happy, it's so uplifting to watch a documentary like this one, and to be reminded that there's nothing in this world that should keep you from doing what makes you happy, no matter what that may be.  The fact that Halloween is the main subject matter here is but the icing on the cake for horror fans like ourselves, but this is a documentary that could very well be enjoyed by those who don't even have a passion for the subject matter at hand ... always the true mark of a good documentary.

Halloween may be over, but I highly recommend you check out American Scream whenever you get the chance, no matter the time of year.  Again, you can view it instantly and for free through Netflix, or rent it for a couple bucks over on Amazon.  A DVD release has not yet been scheduled, as far as I know.



Jonny Metro said...

I caught the trailer for this film on Hulu the other day and thought to myself, "I have to see this!" Then the next morning I logged onto Netflix and saw that it was newly available. Perfect timing! It's now at the top of my instant queue, waiting for a bit of free time. Glad to hear it has your stamp of approval.


Matthew F said...

This sounds fantastic, and the trailer only solidifies the deal.

Small towns (or anywhere outside of major cities really) are often looked down upon, but it's this type of community that you can't find elsewhere.