The American Scream – Spirit


What’s American?  Apple pie?  Baseball?  Government shutdowns?  Sure, all these things makes America great, but something has to be missing….what could it be? How about starting your own business, being an entrepreneur?  That’s one thing, admittedly, America is good at doing.  In the documentary, “The American Scream,” we follow three people taking their obsession to new heights: the art of creating homemade haunted houses.

In the town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, Halloween is a big deal, as it usually is in a small town.  Sure, you have your houses that only put out a jack-o-lantern or maybe some cobwebs in the windows, but three particular residences in Fairhaven turn their homes into “house haunts.”

The American Scream” follows Victor Bariteau, an office drone who dreams of turning his house haunt into a full time job, the father and son team of Matt and Richard Brodeur, who share an interesting and symbiotic relationship, and finally Manny Souza, a city worker who recently suffered a heart attack and who’s house haunt is in danger of not getting done on time.

The documentary begins 31 days before Halloween as all three families are starting to prep for the big day.  What makes this film so interesting is how much the holiday means to each family, but at the same time how it turns them against each other, to a degree.  Victor, who dreams of making this once a year holiday his career, has sacrificed spending Halloween with his family, such as trick-or-treating.  Keeping up on repairs to his house has also suffered, leaving his home a mess.  Manny tries to keep up with Victor, and does a decent job, but with him not being in the best of health has to rely on the kindness of strangers that share his love for the holiday.

“The American Scream” offers a look into a holiday that many retail stores pass over most of the time.  Sure, you have your costume shops like “Spirit of Halloween” and “Halloween Express” but by the time October comes around, Christmas decorations are already up in stores, and aside from sales on candy, Halloween is a holiday that is treated like the bastard child of American holidays.  Hell, Arbor Day gets nearly as much publicity.  It’s refreshing to see a small community get behind a holiday like Halloween an give it the respect it deserves.

While some people do get into the holiday spirit, that holiday is usually Christmas.  You have bright lights, shining stars, and who could forget that cute little manger scene that folks are so keen on.  You look at Halloween and you have everything that is anti-Christian; ghosts, goblins, and zombies, but, if you read your Bible, the Good Book is full of things that you might consider evil; Satan, ghosts, and vengeful spirits.  I might be getting a little off-topic here but why is Halloween usually treated with such contempt, while there was plenty of superstitious nonsense going on during Christmas.

Getting back to small towns,  Halloween is a much bigger deal, and it shows in “The American Scream.”  It shows that Halloween brings people together and is a much more communal holiday than that of Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I mean you don’t let people into your house when you’re having Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, but you will nearly invite people into your home to collect candy or enter a spooky haunted house that takes you months to construct so that it can be enjoyed for just one evening.  That’s putting heart into a holiday.

Living in Florida, I weep sometimes when I see what states like Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and California do to commemorate Halloween.  Sure, we have Halloween Horror Nights, one of the better Halloween-themed attractions in the state, but the costs for Horror Nights have become astronomical and price a lot of true Halloween fans out.  In states like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, where Halloween still truly lives and breathes, its created by true fans of the holiday who want to share their joy with the masses.  Sure, there is money to be made, but you can’t put a price tag on screams and the adrenaline rush you get when a man with a fake ax and a skeleton mask jumps out of the dark to scare you half to death.  That’s “The American Scream” right there.

Fun Fact:  According to Haunt World, the best Haunted Attraction in the US in 2013 is The 13th Floor/The Asylum in Denver, CO.

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