Ten years ago, Hollywood actors and Halloween enthusiasts, Daniel Roebuck and Chuck Williams, made a roughly hour long film called “Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America” where they took a camera around the U.S. and shot at some of the more popular Halloween attractions that pop up during the month of October. Roebuck hosted the tour alongside film historian and archivist Bob Burns. Included in the film are interviews with Halloween experts and horror celebs, such as Robert Englund, Alice Cooper and Tony Todd, who supply a little history on Halloween and the love for horror in general. Robeuck and Williams took their film around to conventions where it screened and was met with great enthusiasm. Now, the film has finally been released on DVD for everyone to see…even those too cool to be caught dead at a horror convention. Is it worth the wait? Meh, if you unconditionally love all things Halloween, sure.
While a great idea, I’m afraid that “Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America” barely skims the surface of the Halloween celebration. The film really only presents a small handful of Halloween attractions and does so with very little set-up or info to peak one’s interest. Instead, we’re simply presented with shots inside the attraction via goofy camera angles, quick editing and creepy music. Shot after shot – here’s a bloody prop, another bloody prop, here’s someone dressed like a monster jumping out at you, repeat…It does nothing to relay the experience of what it’s like to walk through one of these things, which is one of the best experiences ever for a horror fanatic. It’s just shots of stuff. I really wanted to see and hear more about each attraction, talk to the people that put it on (otherwise known as haunters) as well as some of the people attending – get a little history on the attraction and find out what it takes to put one of these things on. There was an amazing documentary made several years ago called “Haunters” and it followed around a few different Halloween attraction organizers as they prepared for their favorite holiday – Halloween. That film puts me smack dab in the mood for Halloween and it’s a great feeling. This film, for the most part – shots of stuff.
And instead of spending more time at the attractions, which is what I thought the heart of the film was supposed to be, that time is spent with horror celebs as they talk about Halloween. There’s a few informative tidbits here, but for the most part – boring.
“Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America” is presented here in a 2-disc collection. The film itself is just under two hours, so that makes room for a whole boatload of extras and a whole boatload of extras thar be. Headlining the second disc is a sort of sequel to “Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America”, hosted once again by Roebuck, this time at the legendary Magic Castle in Los Angeles. This new film presents even more haunted attractions and now spends a little more time at each. It’s a definite improvement over the original film as it gets to the heart of the matter and isn’t weighed down by a bunch of needless fluff. Also found in this collection is Dr. Shocker’s Halloween Spooktacular – a live show featuring Roebuck as Dr. Shocker – and a pilot episode of “Raw Talk,” a roundtable discussion show with Roebuck and Williams talking with horror celebs.
I have not enjoyed writing this review, especially as Halloween is only a week away as I type this. I equate the feeling to having to smack my mother in the mouth. I love my mother and I love Halloween, so it hurts having to talk negatively about something that was created in celebration of my favorite holiday. But as much as I want to, I can not honestly tell you that what was done here was a success…so I won’t. The best I can say is that perhaps casual admirers of the holiday could appreciate this DVD set, but hardcore Halloween fans have seen and done it all and this film provides nothing new and that’s a shame because Roebuck and Williams have their hearts in the right place.