Capturing the spirit of Halloween is a challenge. Yet, “Halloween… The Happy Haunting of America” achieves this difficult task with humor, wit and visual artistry befitting the holiday at it’s best. A presentation of Chuck Williams Productions and Whiz Bang Entertainment, this video gives us a comprehensive tour of Halloween celebrations across America. In a mere 50 minutes we’re given a lifetime of Halloween memories.
For starters, we’re given a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most distinctive haunted attractions in the country. Included on our “tour” are:
- Horror Hotel, Chatfield, Ohio
- Mucklebone’s Monster Museum, Marion, Ohio
Spookyworld, Berlin, MA; America’s only horror theme park
- Haunted School House/Haunted Lab, Akron, Ohio
- Witches’ Dungeon Horror Museum, Bristol, CT; the longest running Halloween exhibit in the country
- Chamber of Chills, Universal City, Hollywood CA; a joint venture between Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment and Spencer Gifts
Sprinkled throughout the presentation are interviews with ghoulish celebrities such as Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund, Alice Cooper, Sarah Karloff (Boris’s daughter), Ron Chaney-the great grandson of Lon Chaney, Sr., Doug (Pinhead) Bradley, and Angus (Phantasm) Scrimm. Their insights on Halloween celebrations, both past and present, provide a fresh perspective on the greatest play day of the year. Notably, Robert Englund explains the popularity of Halloween by adults who are of the “boomer generation” (himself included) is because “(they) remember it with such fondness and remember the innocence of it so well that we don’t want to give it up.”
The aspect of artistry at Halloween is a strong theme in the video. For example, in the segment with Don Post, Jr., of Don Post Studios, we are given an intimate look at the inspiration for masks and how they have changed over the past few decades. Henry Alvarez, wax sculptor and independent Halloween mask designer in California, tells us of the liberating effect of masks. Cortlandt Hull tells us of his humble beginnings as a teenager. His dream was to build not model but life-size replicas of his beloved movie monsters. In 1966, at the mere age of 13, he opened Witches’ Dungeon in Bristol, CT after six intense months of design and construction. The result was a venue that 30 years later continues to delight thousands of folks each year in what is touted as an annual “scare-a-thon.” Bob Burns (Sci Fi Buzz), film archivist/Halloween expert, shares the story of his incredible home haunts which thrilled and delighted his neighbors in California at Halloween for 15 spooktacular years. Scene footage of his home make any good Halloween enthusiast yearn to go trick-or-treating at Bob’s house!
Halloween Historical Perspective
A refreshingly accurate history of Halloween is offered by historian Taylor White. He tells of the origins of Halloween as a celebration of the harvest by Celts dating as far back as 2500 years. On a more recent note, the reason behind the American custom of trick-or-treating is explained as being a way to reduce vandalism and pranks by mischievous youths.
The lure of movie monsters is explored beginning with Universal Studios “Horror Cycle” in 1925 with the Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney. In trying to understand our fascination with macabre movies our host, Daniel Roebuck, speculates “we all want to be scared.” The monsters we have come to love over the years are re-introduced to us and we remember why our fondness for them is timeless.The wonderful traditions of the American Halloween celebration are lovingly displayed in “Halloween…The Happy Haunting of America.” It is a treat for Halloween enthusiasts that keeps giving year after year.