October 9, 2013

Monsters Wanted (2013)

"In early 2011, Rich Teachout quit his lucrative job to focus on creating a one-of-a-kind haunted attraction. He and his partner Janel dedicated every moment, ounce of energy, and dollar to making their 'Scream Park' a reality. 'Monsters Wanted' is the story of their self-proclaimed madness and the industry, culture, and people who share it."

Moving on as quickly as I can from the fictional haunted attraction of "Hallows' Eve", I highly recommend "Monsters Wanted"—a documentary about the Asylum Haunted Scream Park in Louisville, Kentucky—in case you've now got a desire to see the real thing without leaving the comfort of your chair. Nearly everything you've ever wanted to know about the trials and tribulations of setting up a "Scream Park" or "Haunted House" attraction can be found here.

Auditions for actors provide the documentary with its name, but there's obviously more shown in "Monsters Wanted" than hiring a few kids to play dress-up and scream, "Boo!" at the top of their lungs. This is about a group of Hallowe'en obsessives planning, constructing, and running a short-term entertainment business, although enough time is devoted to the actors to see how they're as mad as hatters too.

One masochistic guy who hammers nails into his nostrils and lets people staple playing cards to his face almost deserves a show of his own, while another complete nutter called "Chainsaw Pete" would fit in well with the highly amusing but mentally subnormal reality TV characters that Brits already know and love from Channel Four's documentaries. "Chainsaw Pete" comes across as a dangerously infantilized person who doesn't care if he injures himself or other people with his rambunctious performance, and sure enough, he does indeed manage to injure one of his co-workers before the end of the show.

Aside from that, the real fun happens when communications break down and the financial problems take their toll. Stress often brings out the worst in some people! Thus, the little bit of contrived drama which comes from a surprise visit by a building inspector, who could close the attraction down for not having the right permits, is easily eclipsed by the violent arguments between the event organisers. Due to what must have been embarassment after the fact, the most volatile organiser refused to allow his image to be used in this documentary and is pixellated/voice-changed (but not censored in other ways) as a result. His tantrum is hilarious!

While the focus is mainly on the stresses and strains that Rich and his girlfriend Janel go through as they try to turn their expensive hobby into a money-making business, there are shopping trips galore for things which you probably didn't know existed even in America. A trip to a "Hallowe'en Props" convention where the sky's the limit when it comes to how much you could spend on animatronics and other effects is one of the best parts, since due to the darkness, you don't really see much of the finished "Asylum Haunted Scream Park" in action.

Apart from the night scenes, the camerawork is adequate for a documentary, and there are some clever "Fringe"-style 3D captions which count down the days remaining. Some of these computer-generated captions look like they are embedded in buildings or the ground instead of floating in mid-air, which is an indication of the attention to detail that went into the editing.

Some people have noted that a five minute section devoted to other Hallowe'en attractions in the area feels out of place, but I didn't have a problem with it. My only gripe is that it would have been nicer if "Monsters Wanted" had finished with a walkthrough of the whole attraction using a handheld camera to give a first-person perspective, but perhaps it was technically too difficult or there were rights issues which prevented that from happening. Maybe, just maybe, the organisers would prefer it if you experienced their attraction in person.

If you want to visit the "Asylum Haunted Scream Park", check out their website at http://www.asylumhaunts.com for details.

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