One of my favorite films at this year’s Fantastic Fest was a small documentary called The American Scream, in which Best Worst Movie director Michael Paul Stephenson heads to Fairhaven, MA to look at the lives of three families who spent untold hours building backyard haunted houses. As you might expect from people with this particular obsession, the three families profiled have a certain degree of eccentricity, but Stephenson’s sensitivity towards them, and towards their driving interest, keeps the film grounded. In fact, The American Scream is gentle, even touching, and is recommended seasonal viewing.

US release dates for the film have just been announced, along with a new trailer, which you can see below.  Read More »

Michael Stephenson earned audience appreciation with his documentary Best Worst Movie, which chronicled the strange fandom evolved to celebrate the rather terrible film Troll 2. While Best Worst Movie was nominally about that 1990 release, one of the real thrusts of the film was obsession, articulated to us as Troll 2 actor George Hardy is introduced to the grinning, enthusiastic followers of his mostly forgotten starring role.

Now Stephenson returns with a new documentary focused on three families who spend months and precious funds assembling “home haunts,” which is insider jargon for backyard haunted houses. Though each builder has the same nominal goal — scare and entertain Halloween thrill-seekers — all approach the home haunt interest from a different angle. In The American Scream, Stephenson peers behind the taped-up curtain to find the driving interests for each family, and to celebrate the joy they find in delivering simple scares.

The subjects range from driven to eccentric, and a less humane film would might mock some of these Halloween enthusiasts. This doc edges right up to that line, but never crosses it. More so than the occasionally indulgent Best Worst Movie, The American Scream is a focused vision; it is a sweet, tender portrait of an odd American Dream. Read More »

We’ve got a lot of new images today, and the first two are new looks at characters in Paramount’s pair of upcoming Jack movies — Jack Ryan and Jack Reacher. (Which tough guy will blink and allow a title change first?) Both images show new looks at supporting characters, but in the case of Jack Ryan, the focus is also on the director, and in the case of Jack Reacher, there’s a look at Reacher’s ultimate creator, too.

Plus, there are shots from To the Wonder, Broken City, Grand Piano, and The American Scream, all after the break. Read More »

We tend to love Fantastic Fest, because it is the film festival that caters to audiences who like movies that are weird, strange, and totally fucked-up, but with a quality that puts the films in a rare category that isn’t just simple schlock or exploitation. Fantastic Fest will take place September 20-27 in Austin, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, and a whole bunch of great films have been added to the lineup.

After the break you’ll find info on the great second wave of announcements, which includes Rian Johnson’s Looper, the anthology horror movie The ABCs of Death, and The American Scream, which is the new effort from Best Worst Movie director Michael Paul Stephenson. Then there is Leos Carax’s head-scratcher Holy Motors, which is one of the films I can’t wait to see, and Doomsday Book, the anthology from South Korea that includes new work from Kim Jee-woon. Read More »