Posted: October 12, 2012 at 1:50 a.m.
LITTLE ROCK Our neighbor across the street had a giant inflatable Casper the Friendly Ghost installed on the front lawn two weeks before the end of September.
So when we walked into Wal-Mart and saw the decoration aisle my wife suggested we should buy something even bigger and more outrageous. I simply shrugged my shoulders, the real-world analog to the Internet response “meh.”
I’m not programmed to adorn my house with elaborate ghoulish puppets or to drag fake spider webs over our doorway. But the subjects in the documentary The American Scream do that and more. Way more.
The movie will screen as part of the Argenta Film Series at the Argenta Community Theater on North Little Rock’s Main Street at 7 p.m. Thursday. Admission is free courtesy of the William F. Laman Public Library. Families are encouraged to attend, and a costume contest for kids will be held that evening, with $100 going to the best kid’s costume.
Like America’s Parking Lot, the documentary that opened this year’s Little Rock Film Festival, Scream examines the lives of a group of individuals with a passion for “home haunting.”
Each year the Bariteau family patriarch, Victor, tries to outdo not only his neighbors but himself in transforming his single-family home into a fairly convincing haunted house. This process can start six months before Halloween and involves his reluctant wife and willing preteen daughter (who treats broken Barbie dolls with red paint not so much as an art project but as catharsis).
Where Victor is a perfectionist and his attention to detail can be a bit overwhelming for his family, his neighbor two blocks over, Manny, operates his haunt in a more relaxed fashion. Accumulating mannequins, decayed wood, and other junk he can find that’s cheap or free, he’s more interested in the experience than the craftsmanship of his displays.
Running an amateur haunted house can be quite expensive and even more scary for Kenny, who hopes some day to go full-on pro. The American Scream is quite charming and surprisingly upbeat for a film about such a dark holiday. I found the ingenuity and tenacity of a father and son team who moonlight as clowns for parties to be of particular note.
The film might not convince you to line your yard with Styrofoam tombstones, but it will definitely get you into the Halloween spirit. It’s fascinating to see the lengths to which these individuals will go to entertain hundreds of trick-or-treaters for only one night out of the year.
To reserve your seats for the Argenta Film Series event, go to lrff.eventbrite.com. The film will also show at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 19.
Levi Agee is a programmer for the Little Rock Film Festival. E-mail him at:
MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 10/12/2012