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I imagine THE AMERICAN SCREAM will be an immensely personal
experience for all audiences, but horror/fans of the macabre, especially.
I consistently alternated beaming and welling up tears
throughout the entirety of Michael Paul Stephenson’s THE AMERICAN SCREAM. And
you’re likely to, as well. His second documentary work, following the TROLL 2
actor’s portrait of that film’s legacy, THE AMERICAN SCREAM shares a host of
BEST WORST MOVIE’s best qualities. That’s to say, it’s a wonderful look at
community and serious, DIY passion.
I fell early in THE AMERICAN SCREAM, particularly during a
montage of main subject and Massachusetts home haunter Victor Bariteau building
his annual haunted house as his wife takes the voiceover. She describes Victor
as someone who never loved sports, or a litany of other traditional pastimes.
This is what he cares about. This is what he’s good at. And he built this with
his hands. It’s nothing, if not inspiring to see it all take shape, and
moreover to see Bariteau’s wife and two young daughters support his yearly
Just down the block from Victor his fellow haunter Manny
Souza, and not far from them is father/son duo Richard and Matthew Brodeur. While
this could be spun into a KING OF KONG-like situation, that’s just not what THE
AMERICAN SCREAM is about. Obstacles are met at every home, from budget to
know-ho to financial stability, but envy or competition is never one.
Stephenson’s focus on the specificity of these haunters, in such close proximity of
this town in Massachusetts, creates a universal embracing of community and
passing on of character. One of Victor’s daughters takes a special interest in
their tradition and watching her not only help, but collaborate with her father
on a “monster under the bed” scenario is one of the sweetest onscreen moments
of the year.
THE AMERICAN SCREAM is also gorgeous and absolutely
hilarious. Each haunter throws themselves wholesale into their respective haunts
and a host of missteps, ordeals and plain eccentricity soon follow. The
Brodeurs, in particular, are a natural comedy pair. From the onset of “white
lung” due to clown makeup, to the prolonged journeys of their Alien and see-saw
creations, to David Lee Roth renditions, the film is nowhere lacking for heart or laughs.
People are sweet, funny creatures; something Stephenson previously took an
immense shine to in BEST WORST MOVIE and continues to incredibly do so here.
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