Full disclosure: I am friends with many people featured in this movie, and I worked for Knott’s as a Haunt monster for six years.
Braedon Freeland has been a fan of Knott’s Scary Farm’s Halloween Haunt for years. Most fans would be content to just attend the event every fall, and maybe become friendly with some of the monsters, watch them scare all night.
Nope. Braedon satisfied his Haunt jones by filming, editing, directing and producing the new documentary Sliders Of Ghost Town: Origins. and it’s good. Very good.
For those of you in the dark (heh) about sliding, here we go: it’s a scare tactic in which a monster (wearing knee pads and gloves) hurls themselves at the ground, sliding on their hands and knees right at terrified patrons.
For further edification, check out this classic video.
This all started at Knott’s decades ago, and has been imitated and copied by haunted events all over the country. The monsters that created sliding did it on their own, without any oversight from management, simply in the pursuit of that elusive perfect scare. They trial-and-errored their own equipment, worked out their own moves, and, yeah, ruined a few knees in the process. It’s a fascinating history, and Braedon is the first filmmaker to take it seriously.
This documentary, even if you don’t know much about Haunt, is still fascinating and does a terrific, if not completely thorough, job of relating the history of sliding. Freeland tracked down the former monsters who started it all, and let them describe the early trials and tribulations of scaring. From using flattened tin cans as hand and knee guards, to costume adjustments, to training and stunts, these scary guys and gals put their bodies on the line every single night to bring the fright.
With plenty of vintage and current videos and photos, this is a beautiful-looking, visually interesting movie. It’s definitely not just a bunch of talking heads. I really loved seeing so many great “vintage” monsters in action that I recognized from my own years as a fan.
It’s not a perfect film. There are a couple digressions that, although immensely entertaining, took us off-track a bit. A section about a monster named Merrick didn’t really fit, since he’s not a slider. However, he is a great frightener, and it was still fascinating to watch him do his stuff. This, however, points to a bigger possibility: there is so much history of Haunt it can’t possibly be contained in one single film. There are mazes, street zones, sliders, celebrity hosts, live shows–over 40 years of history to be explored.
I see a miniseries in Freeland’s future. He’s certainly much more than up to that task.
A BluRay and/or DVD should be available by March 2016, and you should keep an eye on the movie’s Facebook page for further details, and be sure to watch the trailer below. Uncle Mike enthusiastically sez: check it out.
Mike Hansen has worked as a teacher, a writer, an actor, and a haunt monster, and has been a horror fan ever since he was a young child. Sinister Seymour is his personal savior, and he swears by the undulating tentacles of Lord Cthulhu that he will reach the end of his Netflix list. Someday.