Title: The American Scream (2012)
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Michael Stephenson

One might argue that I’m pretty easy on reviewing documentaries, but I don’t feel that’s entirely true. When it comes to documentary filmmaking, I either love the movie or I hate it. It’s rare that I feel indifferent about one. To be fair, I generally only watch documentaries that I think I’ll enjoy the content of, which is also why I tend to love most documentaries I watch. When I hit play on a documentary that has questionable content, and I still love it, then I’m overjoyed. Such was the case with The American Scream.

The Netflix plot synopsis doesn’t sound all that interesting – a look at three different families who set up homemade haunted houses in a small Massachusetts town – so I turned this on hoping to fall asleep. It didn’t take but five minutes to hook me, though, and I couldn’t turn it off until it was over.

Even though I’m not a big haunted house guy (I prefer my horror stuck to a screen, thank you), the appreciation that these homemade haunters have for horror is infectious. What’s even better is how the director presents these three different families. There is no doubt that the director could have looked down on these guys as dorks, or losers with a silly obsession, but instead, the director gives the rightful respect to each and every family, and the result is a memorable and heartwarming experience that left me misty-eyed.

The film clearly dictates one man as the film’s main character of sorts, and his story is the most interesting because of where it leads. This man’s family – consisting of a wife and two young girls – support his passion for building his haunted house every year, and as a result, the story of the film becomes a positive and important one that screams “follow your dreams” in the only way horror fanatics know how.

There is also a father-son relationship that is explored is one of the three family’s stories, and though it could have come off as goofy, silly, or just plain strange, the director finds the heart and soul of these two men, and shows how this love for building a homemade haunted every Halloween brings these two best friends together. It’s truly touching.

What makes The American Scream so special is the human aspect, and the fact that emotion springs out of an otherwise odd passion. Family is at the heart of this story, and horror is at the surface. What’s not to love?

Branden Chowen
Editor-in-Chief at Cinefessions
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn't until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor's and master's degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.