For the past several years you have probably seen Jon Schnitzer running around the haunt scene, camera over his shoulder, eternally capturing every ounce of footage he can of Halloween and haunts. Finally, his work is coming to fruition and he is preparing to share his upcoming film, Haunters The Movie with the world. Haunters follows the haunt community and notables within it with unprecedented access and scope. The film covers everything that it means to be a haunter, what it is to haunt, and why this subculture has come to the fore in recent years.
HorrorBuzz was privileged enough to take a look at the first 39 minutes of the upcoming documentary Haunters The Movie. The cut of the film that I saw was, according to Schnitzer, very different from the version that screened just a few months before at Scare LA. As of this writing I am told that the first act of the movie has been recut again. So why review something that is still in an evolutionary stage?
To be clear this is not a review. This is more of a preview. This is a rumination on the cut of the film that I personally saw, and what I could surmise about the direction of the project.
Schnitzer is a damned good film maker. He is the kind of guy that, when presented with a subject, dives in, cannonball-style and becomes a part of the world he is documenting. The film opened by explaining what a Haunter and Haunts were.
We are introduced to the various categories of haunt; traditional, immersive, extreme, etc. In the traditional haunt guests follow a set path, snaking through scenes in which the occasional actor will deliver a “boo” scare. These are obviously the most popular as they follow the basic walking tour convention that visitors are familiar with.
We next meet those who create immersive haunts. These are the type of haunts that break the mold of the pathway and surround guests in a simulated world. In these haunts, guests are typically called on to complete tasks or interact with the setting, the actors, or the effects.
Finally we are introduced to extreme haunts. Extreme haunts push the limits of interaction, physical endurance, and truly try to break the “fourth wall” so to speak, by going far beyond any reasonable comfort zone. In these haunts, guests can be drenched in fake blood, smeared with all manner of substances, be waterboarded, suffocated, handcuffed, interrogated, and even disrobed.
We are then introduced to the people who create the haunts. Seemingly normal, everyday individuals who dedicate their free time to terrifying others. Appearances include the adorable Diane and Preston Meyer, the couple behind the brilliant home haunt, Rotten Apple 907. We next meet Jon Braver, the stuntman/filmmaker behind Delusion haunted experience. Lastly we meet Russ McKamey, the proprietor of the infamous McKamey Manor and Josh Randall, the creator of the more artsy Blackout Haunted House.
Finally, we meet the reason why all of this happens to begin with. The rabid community of haunt fans that wait the entire year to dive in and experience these creations. From every class, every race, every age, there is a community of fear lovers who genuinely crave the scare.
The stage was set, the players introduced, so where does the film go from there? What is it that compels these people to willingly experience things that will trigger a fearful response? What is it that compels the producers of these events to get them done? This is where Schnitzer goes further than the majority of the Haunt-umentaries out there. The cut of Haunters The Movie’s first act that we saw began to explore not just the passion for the haunt world, but the psychology that drives it as well.
We are introduced to a study done at the University of Pittsburgh in which a haunt was set up to specifically to document the effects that scares have on the brain. It is also noted that there is a very notable difference in the brain between people that enjoy the scare as compared to those that don’t.
Not allowing himself to dismiss his subject as a niche market that you just get or you don’t, Schnitzer weaves a narrative that introduces a large cast of players, then puts them all in one class in order to more clearly understand them as a whole.
As of this writing the film is, again, being painstakingly recut, “sculpted” as Schitzer put it, to refine the driving through line of the movie. Again, it is hard to review a film that will most likely be very different upon its release in 2016. Rest assured, however, that this will be very worth the wait. The care and attention that Schitzer is putting into the movie is almost Scorsecian. The careful attention to story beats, narrative, and the overall impact that each segment delivers is impressive.
Whether you are into Haunts or not, this will be an intriguing film to keep your eyes on for 2016.
For more information on Haunters, be sure to check out the film’s website and Facebook page.
Another way to keep up-to-date on this upcoming film is by joining the HAUNTERS The Movie VIP CLUB. It’s a mere $60 to join, and it buys you a copy of the film when it is released AND a HAUNTERS The Movie T-Shirt, too! You’ll also get instant access to bonus footage right now, in the online VIP CLUB. You want even more? For $95, you also get your name in the credits! Offer ends November 30, 2015!
HAUNTERS The Movie VIP CLUB from Jon Schnitzer on Vimeo.