There is no finer sight for a trick-or-treater (or accompanying parent) than the neighborhood haunted house. Lots of folks these days hang a puffy spider or stick a witch in a tree or spread that cottony web across a front door. But the real heroes of Halloween are those who transform their humble abodes into something epically terrifying. The new documentary The American Scream, which premieres on the Chiller Network on Oct. 28 and is now playing in theaters in select cities, chronicles the herculean efforts of three passionate home haunters living within a stone’s throw of one another in an idyllic New England neighborhood. Directed by Michael Stephenson, whose last effort was 2009’s terrifically amusing Best Worst Movie about the making of Troll 2, it won Best Documentary after premiering at Fantastic Fest last month in Austin, Texas.
Check out the exclusive trailer of The American Scream if you dare…. (If you dare root for guys who remind you of your salt-of-the-Earth fathers. If you dare succumb to all the nostalgia of the season. If you dare consider taking your own 4-year-old to her first haunted house this year and risk her complaining of nightmares and asking to sleep in the big bed just this one more night.)
EW caught up recently with American Scream‘s Victor Bariteau, a married father of two who wasn’t allowed to celebrate Halloween as a child and is now most making up for that lost opportunity. “Hearing the screams throughout the house is just incredibly satisfying,” Bariteau, 44, explains of his drive. “You get a person’s adrenaline going. You get an emotion out of them. Causing that emotion is incredibly satisfying. I want to say it’s almost a feeling of power. They’re screaming throughout the house and then when they make it to the end they’re laughing.”
His extremely patient and wry wife Tine handles both the costumes and his increasingly frayed nerves. His 10-year-old daughter Gwen somewhat impatiently agrees to be a part of the Haunted House. But the true star is 12-year-old Catherine, who gleefully displays her bucket of horrifically mangled Barbies. She is so odd and so endearing that she’ll make any vaguely weird adult yearn to go back in time and redo junior high, this time with best friend Catherine at her side.
In the movie, Bariteau gets laid off from his IT job of 11 years and dares to follow his heart into the professional haunter’s world. So if you find yourself in Massachusetts this October, consider making a run to his newly opened Ghoulie Manor in Taunton. Of the many freaks and terrors housed within, Bariteau says he’s most proud of his grand foyer entrance. “As soon as you walk in you’re in a different world. You’re in a mansion — You’re not in a haunt with black walls and people with scary masks. It’s an immersive, theatrical environment.”
I want to go to there.