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BEST WORST MOVIEDIRECTOR RETURNS WITH HOME HAUNTER DOC Best Worst Movie, an affectionate documentary

about the infamously schlocky Troll 2, was an un- expected festival hit in 2009. Now, director Michael Paul Stephenson is back with The Amer- ican Scream, a documentary about three Massa- chusetts families who transform their homes into elaborate Halloween attractions. Ironically, Best Worst Movie’s success made

Stephenson wary of making another documen- tary. “After Best Worst Movie, it was like, man, you

could not align these types of things again if you tried. And that’s what gave me a fear of doing an- other documentary,” the actor-turned-director admits. “And then we got lucky again.” The idea for The American Screamcame about

purely by chance when producer Meyer Shwarzstein raised the subject of the home- haunting subculture last spring. Stephenson ran the idea by Fantastic Fest programmer Zack Carl- son, whom he met while shooting Best Worst Movie, only to discover Carlson and a friend had been working on a book about the subject for years. Carlson signed on as another producer. “It was kind of like this weird alignment of

forces,” Stephenson says, laughing. “It was, okay, let’s step into this world.” After receiving more than 600 online submissions in response to a call for home haunters, the filmmakers trained their sights on the northeastern US. “New England feels like Halloween,” explains

Stephenson. “It has that great aesthetic. Eighty degrees and palm trees on the West Coast does not feel like Halloween.” They eventually whittled their list of candidates

down to thirteen families. When Stephenson came across a picture of Victor Bariteau’s young daughter standing in front of a gigantic, home- made spider, he found his first subject. Later, when the director sat down with the family to chat, the little girl walked in and dumped a box

The American Scream: Manny Souza’s home in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, made over for Halloween.

of bloody, mutilated Barbie dolls in front of him. “She says, ‘I hate Barbies and I like to burn

their faces off and put them in blood,’” recalls Stephenson. “And I’m just in love because this girl is so sweet and so sunny about it. Right then it was like, okay, this is our family.” Bariteau referred the filmmakers to another

local haunter, Manny Souza, who told them about father-and-son team Rick and Matt Brodeur. Every year, the three families transform the small town of Fairhaven into a grisly oasis for scare- seekers. Though the haunters share a passion for their hobby, their skill levels, not to mention their motives, are quite different. “Victor is very good – he should be building

movie sets,” Stephenson says. “He takes it very seriously, and you learn through the film that there’s a reason why. Manny’s [set-up] is very fun and enjoyable and kind of magical, but he doesn’t sweat the details... . Matt and Rick Brodeur do it for the kids in the neighbourhood, so their skill

level is completely different.” While the film highlights the crazy creations the

families spawn year-round, it’s Halloween night when they pull out all the stops. From mid-Sep- tember 2011 to the beginning of November, Stephenson shot almost 300 hours of film – about 100 hours less than he shot for Best Worst Movie, which he shot over the course of three years. “We were able to see [Best Worst Movie] or-

ganically grow; it had time to mature and de- velop,” Stephenson points out. “[With The American Scream], I felt this real urgency – we do not have a window to follow this for three years. It’s all building up to one night, and it’s done.” The American Scream premiered at Fantastic

Fest in late September and was slated to air on the Chiller TV network on October 28. A fall 2012 DVD release is planned.



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