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Screamer finally comes out from hiding

By Trea Daniels



“Everybody's open....but us” would-be haunt operator Phil Granger offers up in the film Screamer, which is getting ready to come out via Video on Demand, DVD and in some cases, theatrical showings this Halloween season.  


Screamer, a haunted house documentary film about the world of haunted attractions, follows the activities of a couple of struggling haunt owners in Indiana.  The film has been in and out of production since 2005.  In the latest back slide of development, the film went back into shooting again in February of 2012 to record yet another set-back for Granger and his partner Matt Kemp.  The two are no strangers to adversity.   Just barely able to survive a haunt season, Kemp drives around in a car which has 250,000 miles on it and has two coffee cans for headlights.  But, despite having two other part time jobs, in the film Kemp seems determined to pull off the season no matter what the cost.


“I have just a little over a month, yeah about a month and I have three months of stuff which needs to be done.”


Screamer was originally conceived as a haunted attraction travelogue.  Director William N. McHugh was inspired by the film The Happy Haunting of America for the basis of what he was trying to achieve.  However, by the time the film had been in production for over two years, it was pretty obvious that Screamer was headed in another direction entirely.


“We shot many haunts and also Iron stock and Hauntcon for the film.  I think many people in the industry were a little puzzled or even felt betrayed that the footage was nowhere to be found after a few years.  But, you can't meet these guys (Granger/Kemp) and not be on their side, it's like they suck you in with their enthusiasm so we decided to tell their story even though it took a lot longer.”


While the documentary doesn't dig down deep into the lives of Granger, Kemp and their friend Jamie Taylor, it does go deep enough to reveal some of the pitfalls of haunted house ownership and without the guidance or setup of a reality TV show.  


“All we did was set up a camera, place microphones and record.  If they argued or something went wrong we recorded it, but we never manufactured anything here.”


And indeed, things do go wrong.  One of the haunts is shut down by the local fire marshal before it can even open, actors and crew blow up over missing pay, short preparation time shows up in the poor performances by actors and Kemp reflects on poor business decisions that are wrecking havoc on his personal passion.  


“Someone decided that everyone would be willing to pay five dollars and everyone has five dollars in their pocket, so here we stand and it makes us look like we're not worth as much.”


Kemp's lament seems to be echoed by legendary Leonard Pickel, who also appears in the film to warn people about the dangers of being swept up by the haunted attraction business.


“People go around haunted attractions, count heads the weekend before Halloween and think wow this guy's making a bundle.”


Screamer Director McHugh says he has seen this same mentality first hand.

“Someone walked out of a haunt, did some fuzzy math and complained loudly that Granger and Kemp must be pulling in $18,000 a night on the haunt, it's the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.  A lot of these people including Matt and Phil barely survive, they do it because they love putting on a show.”


Some successful haunts are featured in the film such as The Baxter Avenue Morgue, The Haunted Hotel, Dead Acres, Nightmare on 13thand Necropolis City of Perpetual Darkness.  However, in a quick on the spot interview, Larry Kirchner warns Halloween lovers how even successful haunted houses can effect your outlook on the holiday.


“You're really busy all summer, I have always loved Halloween but because this is a business, it doesn't mean as much to me as it used to.”


McHugh also had his own special warning for people wanting to go into the haunted attraction business.   Some enter with blind optimism and he says this sometimes clouds reality.


The official website for the film Screamer is


























Surreel Film William McHugh Screamer Interview