I personally can't stand haunted houses. I love horror films, but am not fond of being confined to a small, murky, crowded, foggy area for long periods of time. I can, however, appreciate the craft these enthusiasts put into these projects. Victor Bariteau works at a financial company, repairing servers and desperately trying to keep his head afloat in the corporate filed to support his wife and two girls. Every year, he constructs a haunted house from parts he makes or finds in hopes to leave a mark on the neighborhood. Father and son team Rick and Matt Brodeur get much of their haunted house equipment from their overcrowded basement, which to one person looks like a junk-heap, but to another, horror-heaven with various marks, lights, statues, figurines, costumes, signs, and memorabilia. The final person is Manny Souza, a frequent helper on sculptures and props for Victor. Souza constructs his own houses as well, saying that he often favors quantity of sculptures and props over detail, unlike Victor who wants details to be painstakingly fleshed out. He believes that people come to simply walk through, be scared, and move on; not eye details in complete awe.
We too examine the relationship the men hold with their family. Victor shows how his oldest daughter, around ten, loves horror and monster seasons so much so that she will mutilate and discolors the bodies of her Barbie dolls to almost resemble something out of Saw or Wolf Creek. Rick and Matt appear to have an incorruptible brotherly bond, even attending different organizations dressed as clowns with inspiration from duos like Laurel and Hardy under their belt.
One thing we also notices is the level of stress and angst these men and their families are put under during the month of October. We wonder, especially in Victor's case, if his family members even appreciate the fact he does this since his wife often seems miserable around Halloween, slaving over costumes and makeup, never appearing to rise above the level of content to her husband's passion. We see these men work incredibly hard at building these houses and concocting intricate little scares for just one night and we sense an overwhelming dedication and pride on their part.
Director Michael Paul Stephen son, most recently famous for Best Worst Movie, a documentary examining Troll 2, another film he worked on, and how its reputation of being the worst film of all time has affected it positively and negatively, gives great care and attention to this subject, emphasizing its ups, yet not ignoring its down as as a whole. He too seems to compliment the privilege of meeting these men four men and studying their passion. These men deserve recognition; it appears that they are not taking money from this haunted house operation, since no talk of financial figures is ever brought up. It seems to sum up Victor's goal and reward at the end by saying, "when you're scared, you're most alive; people need that."
Starring: Victor Bariteau, Rick Brodeur, Matt Brodeur, and Manny Gouza. Directed by: Michael Paul Stephenson.