Netflix Halloween review: The American Scream

by | Oct 30, 2014 | FILM & TV

When most people think back on Halloween, the walk down memory lane may include the old neighborhood trick-or-treat route, the homemade costumes someone made you wear, those plastic vampire teeth that never fit inside anyone’s mouth, and using a pillowcase instead of a real bag for candy because it held more inside. However, the most memorable part of anyone’s past, present, and future Halloween experience will always be the haunts.

Today’s haunts are usually done on a grander scale, using cornfields, hayrides through the woods, or rented-out warehouses. The actors are supreme, the effects are on point, and the purpose is achieved. You have been thoroughly scared–and it only cost you about $35-$40.00.

Now, haunts on the grand scale need that kind of money to stay amazing. Not only is it an entire production that you get to see come to life, but the attraction must constantly out-do itself every year. And though they may be worth every penny, there’s something to be said for those original neighborhood haunts that still exist in close-knit communities, achieving the same overall effect at no cost to the visitor.

The cost to the families behind these memorable nights is another story entirely. In 2012, Michael Stephenson documented the efforts of three families in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, who all had one goal in mind during the months before Halloween: to create the neighborhood’s best haunt. The American Scream takes a powerful look at these families’ love of Halloween on every level, as well as the sacrifices they make–which surprisingly hit closer to home than anyone would ever imagine.


The three families that are the focus of this documentary include Victor & Tina Bariteau and their children; Matthew Brodeur and his father Richard; and Manny & Lori Souza. As viewers get to know the families behind these three haunts, we can see the individualistic passions each creator possesses that contribute to the overall success of their haunts every year.

The Bariteau family are primarily featured due to Victor’s background and passion for his eclectic Halloween haunt. Victor’s attention to detail and deep-level commitment to dumpster-diving, attending haunt conventions, and engaging in workshop creativity reflect the amount of heart that not only he, but his wife and children, devote to making the walk through his backyard an unforgettable night of fear and fun.

As a direct result of his friendship with Victor Bariteau, Manny Souza took on the hobby of Haunting-out his backyard as well, using similar methods to achieve his desired effect. Unlike Victor, Manny stops there. Manny’s focus is more big-picture, less detail oriented. For him, the minute details are just a small piece of the puzzle, not the whole image.

By taking the step back, Manny is able to enjoy the process of building his own haunt without adding intense amounts of stress. Manny not only serves his neighborhood as the creator of one of the best haunts in Fairhaven, he also canvases the neighborhoods surrounding his own to find the best Halloween setups. He then maps them out for his communiy’s enjoyment and makes the maps available to the public. It’s a selfless effort to ensure that not only his family, but all local families maximize their fun on Halloween night.

The third family featured is the father-son duo of Matthew and Richard Brodeur. Best friends in every way, these two are just as imaginative and creative as the other families. Other than the occasional help of a devoted friend, all of the work to pull off their dream haunt falls on Matthew and Richard’s shoulders. Disadvantaged by medical issues and manpower, it’s amazing to see the father and son pair commit the same amount of love and patience to their project as the other families. The message of The American Scream is clear: if you love to do something enough, nothing on earth can make you happier.

The American Scream is a heart-warming look at the men and women who work selflessly to make Halloween extra special for their community, with the only return on their two-month investment being a scream, laugh, and a smile from a walk through their creation.

Though each family has their own struggles, sacrifices, and stories, The American Scream connects each of the back-stories to the amount of heart that goes into each haunt with seamless ease.

Anyone who takes a look at the men and women behind this metaphorical curtain by checking out this documentary will walk away with a newfound appreciation for those who go all out this time of year for our personal enjoyment. The American Scream is a truly touching illustration of not just the love for Halloween, but also the love for family, friends, imagination, creativity, and community as a whole.

This movie gives any Haunt lover new insight and appreciation into RVA’s most prized haunts (and you know we’ve got the best). Check them out, show your support, and always have fun. After all, it’s made just for you.

Jessica Norman

Jessica Norman

30 year old RVA native living in Los Angeles. VCU class of 2011 graduate with B.A. in World Cinema. Movie theaters are my sanctuaries. Currently pursuing M.A. in Film Studies and writes volunteer film reviews for several online publications.

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