Who wouldn’t watch a documentary about grown men who obsess over whether or not a window fan and a garbage bag can pass for a ghost?
THE AMERICAN SCREAM is a documentary that delivers beautiful insights into everyday lives. It also delivers seven-foot vampires constructed out of Styrofoam.
It’s Halloween in Fairhaven, MA. That doesn’t mean much to you and me. But for some people in Fairhaven, it’s everything. THE AMERICAN SCREAM, from the director and team behind the awesome BEST WORST MOVIE, follows three families of “home haunters” as they transform their normal homes into haunted houses for the Halloween season. On paper, this sounds like the cinematic equivalent of eating ice cream for dinner. I mean, who wouldn’t watch a documentary about someone who obsesses over whether or not a window fan and a garbage bag can pass for a ghost? From the first minute, The American Scream has a foot in the door. There's a reason why this film was voted Best Documentary at Fantastic Fest 2012. It has adults eschewing grown-up responsibilities to build haunted houses. It takes place in October (aka The #1 Best Month Of The Year). And most importantly, it’s FUN.
Then I cried.
I don’t cry much during movies. The only films that have made me cry in the theater are Charlie Chaplin’s THE GOLD RUSH and NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE starring John Stamos (both for different reasons, obviously). However, as the last few minutes of AMERICAN SCREAM rolled by, my eyes welled up with tears. This wasn’t due to Halloween-related nostalgia or monster-related joy. It happened because of what happens between all of that. THE AMERICAN SCREAM is about people being human. It affirms the fact that whatever we choose to do in life is valid, as long as we believe in it. It also affirms that people are hilarious. The subjects of this movie argue, make fools of themselves, assert their questionable opinions, and love each other. They’re just like us. They endear.
Anyone can set up a camera and film people while they do things. John Cassavetes forged an entire legacy out of it. But THE AMERICAN SCREAM isn’t a gritty cinéma vérité experiment that’s filled with cathartic psychological probing. It’s beautifully photographed and edited. Comedic moments are presented with such subtle and effective timing that I forgot I was watching a documentary. This is a film where everything comes together for totally unexpected reasons. I watched it for the novelty of the subject matter, but I’ll remember it because it made me feel good about life in general.
If that’s too maudlin for you, there are also clown jokes.
Buy tickets! Now!