Having grown up in what amounted to as a rather conservative evangelical cult, I never had the opportunity to build any sort of nostalgic relationship with that childhood rite of passage known as Halloween. By the time those days ended for my family, I'd long since grown out of any fascination with trick-or-treating, costumes, haunted houses, or anything related to the Halloween experience.
As a young adult, I dabbled in Halloween by attending the occasional party and growing an almost absurd interest in the world of indie horror.
So, it might seem that I'm not the ideal moviegoer to check out writer/director Linda Palmer's Halloween Obsessed: Haunted Attractions, a just shy of 40-minute documentary that is both an episode of Palmer's Halloween Obsessed and a stand-alone doc that works as an absolutely spooky delight guaranteed to please any fan of haunted attractions whether they be a simple yard setup, a haunted house, a hell house, or any number of other ways that Halloween devotees find to observe this most dastardly of seasons.
While I've never really immersed myself in Halloween, when I entered the world of reviewing indie cinema I opened the door to a full-on baptism into indie horror and became an absolute devotee myself of B-movies, Troma, and the various indie horror cons that can be found across the country. When one of my cousins just so happened to marry the owner of one of Indy's largest haunted parks, suddenly the world I'd never known became one I was living in.
Then, as a wheelchair user I found myself offering accessibility advice to various local haunted houses including Haunted Angelus, a charitable haunted house and sister house to a Florida operation.
I was hooked.
Haunted Attractions vividly captures exactly why I got so hooked.
Palmer starts off Haunted Attractions by exploring the history of these attractions, from early Christian "hell houses" presenting the horrors of abortion and drugs with an ultimate agenda of salvation to France's Phantasmagoria, a live horror theatre experience that largely planted the seeds for what was to follow. Once Palmer firmly plants Haunted Attractions back here in the U.S., we get introduced to truly engaging folks behind such experiences as Wraith House, a yard haunt started by three sisters in their parents' yard, and Field of Screams, a family farm-set horror extravaganza run by the incredibly engaging Jim and Gene Schopf.
And there's more.
Haunted Attractions features incredibly engaging interviews along with the obligatory scenes of chills and thrills, passionate actors and lots of folks who clearly just love being a part of a community that may seem strange but is actually quite wonderful. Palmer even captures the camaraderie of those who work in this industry and the generosity that can very often be found amongst these unique souls who are drawn to haunted attractions for a myriad of different reasons but in that attraction have found a place where they feel like they belong.
Haunted Attractions is a tremendous intro to Palmer's Halloween Obsessed, an occasionally scary but absolutely enthralling experience about a world that draws you in and never lets you go. If you get a chance, and you will, check out the entire Halloween Obsessed and for sure Haunted Attractions as it heads out on the indie fest circuit this fall.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic