At ScareLA, Haunters: The Art of the Scare previewed the first fifteen minutes of their documentary, a film that explores the hidden backstories and passions that drive some of the visionaries that create some of the best, most frightening, and most controversial haunted houses out there. While we were unable to film the movie, we were able to capture a Question and Answer portion following the sneak peek of the movie. Joining the director and producer of Haunters: The Art of the Scare, Jon Schnitzer, is Beth Accomando, host of the KPBS Cinema Junkie podcast and on the committee for the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, Brian Sapir, co-creator of We Are Indie Horror, and Josh Randall, co-creator of Blackout.
Described by Schnitzer himself, Haunters: The Art of the Scare is a heart-warming and heart-stopping documentary about people who sacrifice everything to create the most popular and polarizing haunted houses for Halloween – from boo-scare mazes to a controversial new subculture of extreme terror experiences. Taking audiences behind the scenes, we are privy to the visionaries behind these events. But as the family friendly mazes slowly shift into the full-contact, extreme horror simulations, how far is too far? When does it become too much?
The sneak peek reveals the passion of haunters across the country and both the positive and negative influences it has on their life. The love they have for their craft is conveyed honestly, and reveals why they continue to make haunts–and why we continue to come back. It’s as much of a human story as it is about the haunted houses. The film does have a darker side, juxtaposed against the nostalgia of home haunts. Using McKamey Manor as a case study, it explores the duality of the haunt scene and how a home haunt can evolve into something more frightening, something more extreme, and something much more dangerous and unsafe. While this movie has changed over the course of the four years that it has been in production, it definitely succeeds in highlighting the sheer passion people have and the care they put into their haunts.
Personally, I’d love to see this documentary continue as a series–focusing on individual subgenres, such as immersive theater, home haunts, extreme haunts, and so forth–giving each haunt or experience equal screen time. But as for this documentary, I do hope it can help this community grow and bring awareness. Hopefully it is able to shed light on the true behind the scenes of McKamey Manor and their complete lack of consent, educate friends and family as to why we love haunted houses so much, and immortalize the terrifying, yet beautiful art that haunters can create when they are truly passionate about the scare.