Monsters Wanted is a 2013 documentary tracking the evolution of the Asylum Haunted Scream Park from a smaller haunted house into a giant Halloween themed attraction in the fall of 2011. Clocking in at an hour and a half, it's a feature length presentation and one that any horror fan worth their salt should definitely see.
Upon my initial viewing I wasn’t sure what to expect from Monsters Wanted. I am not a documentary enthusiast so I didn’t know what caliber of filmmaking I was in store for. What a pleasant surprise then to discover an entertaining, soulful examination of the passions and sacrifices involved in operating a Halloween “haunt”. Wanted focuses on a few main players as they attempt to transform Asylum Haunted Scream Park into something special. Among them are Richard Teachout and his companion, Janel Nash. Teachout and Nash are basically the foundation of our story.
It is fascinating to watch these characters transform over the course of our story which takes place in 2011 when Asylum quadrupled in size from one theme park to four. Rich and Janel start out bright eyed and bushy tailed and by the end of the film they are exhausted and beat. Along the way we encounter competing attractions, overzealous co-owners, technical malfunctions and a host of other obstacles. Everything is fascinating. Wanted is a peek behind the curtain of one of the most interesting aspects of horror culture.
Along the way we learn about one of the nation’s largest zombie walks and its genesis 8 years ago. The Louisville Zombie Attack, located in Kentucky attracts thousands of attendees, all decked out in the latest makeup and gore. We also visit Transworld, the nation’s largest tradeshow for haunted attractions. It is fascinating to see that Halloween is in fact a thriving business that now generates millions of dollars every year.
One of the highlights of the film is witnessing the audition process for the actors and employees for Asylum. One such participant, Pete Chainsaw Madden is your classic reality television character. His eerie laugh and stories about scaring the shit out of young visitors or injuring fellow co-workers is unnerving.
Midway through the film we hit absolute chaos. There is a battle between organizers of the event, there are people quitting, there is a surprise visit by a city inspector. All the while we are following Rich and Janel as they hold on for dear life during the ride of their lifetime. You feel their excitement and their fatigue.
The film, as shot by director Brian Cunningham, is delightful. There is a clearly defined narrative thread leading you from beginning to end. There are several musical montages strewn throughout the film and they are handled very well. The music fits the action onscreen and the transitions between scenes are well done. Particularly well handled are the funny subtitles that complement the action onscreen.
Wanted is not perfect though. As fun as the picture is, it slows to a crawl midway through. After things peak during the chaotic first night, the film meanders a bit and struggles to re-establish the same energy. We are lead away from Asylum to visit other spooky attractions and this is where the film momentarily lost me. It is not clear how these other attractions are related to the themes of Monsters Wanted. I sensed there was a comparison being made but I couldn’t figure out what conclusions I was supposed to draw.
Despite this, Monsters Wanted is a touching story about the dedication it takes to entertain people and live your dreams. When the credits roll there is a feeling of exhilaration. The film is a celebration of Halloween, and in that respect Monsters Wanted an unmitigated success.