Every Halloween they appear like magic, the assorted haunted house, catacomb and hayride attractions. We’ve all been to at least a few of them, for many it’s a yearly ritual. But have you ever wondered about the people behind the scares? The actors, effects people and the ones running the whole thing, how do they do it, and why? HAUNTERS: THE ART OF THE SCARE goes behind the scenes and gives us a look at the people who put on the shows.
Director Jon Schnitzer primarily focuses on three people, Shar Mayer, an actress who’s legendary in the haunt community. Donald Julson a former prop maker for Universal Studios who runs an old-school haunted house. And Russ McKamey, owner of the controversial “extreme haunt” McKamey Manor. The profiles of these three are interspersed with short interviews with others from the horror and haunt communities such as Jason Blum, Jessica Cameron(RED EYE, CURSE OF BUCKOUT ROAD), Kristjan Thor, even noted genre fan Slash makes an appearance.
Shar is easily the most endearing of the three, getting on in years but still devoted to her craft. She talks about the changes in haunts and their audiences over the years both good and bad. At heart, she’s still a child who loves getting covered in makeup and scaring people. This despite incidents involving drunk/aggressive patrons who have gotten violent and in one case caused permanent injury.
Julson, who owns Nightmare on Loganberry talks about the nuts and bolts of running a haunted house and the outlet it’s given him for his talents since he lost his job. There’s also a lot of input from both his wife and his parents on the effect running it has on the rest of his life. It’s a nicely balanced look and should be seen by anyone thinking they want to run one. One thing both Shar and Donald express concern about is the rise of so-called “extreme haunts” and their fear that they’ll lead to a crackdown on the haunt scene in general.
This brings us to Russ McKamey who seems determined to make those fears come true.Calling McKamey Manor a haunted house would seem to be stretching the term to the breaking point. More of a torture-filled endurance test than anything else, videos show those who venture in being repeated held underwater, having live bugs shoved into their mouths, etc. And unlike other extreme attractions like Blackout, there is no safe word to end it early.
HAUNTERS Clip – The Safe Word
McKamey is seen boasting about hiring an interrogator from Guantanamo Bay and a felon with assault convictions as staff. In another scene, he’s filming someone in a water-filled tub with bars across the top as his “actors” repeatedly force the person’s cloth-wrapped head under water. McKamey looks like he’s about to orgasm. Run by someone who’s obviously not in his right mind, McKamey Manor is a tragedy waiting to happen.
Fast paced and interesting, HAUNTERS: THE ART OF THE SCARE is an enjoyable look at the haunt scene. The good, the bad and the ugly sides of it.
HAUNTERS: THE ART OF THE SCARE is available on NetFlix and other streaming platforms.