Family of Fear Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Forcone Films
Directed by Stephen Lackey
2018, 92 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 23rd, 2018
Vinny Grosso as Himself
Tristin Pierce as Himself
Rebecca Booth as Herself
Doc as Himself
Heather Sizemore as Herself
Brittany Montgomery as Herself
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’re probably a horror fan. Otherwise, why would you be reading this or perusing our fine site? I’ll step a little further out on that same limb (now slightly more bowed by my considerable bulk) and guess that you probably know at least a little bit about what it’s like to be on the outside looking in; to be an outcast and a loner, bullied and slighted. This is the central theme of the heartfelt documentary, Family of Fear.
Arx Mortis Haunted Attraction is a renowned and well-reviewed haunt in Killen, Alabama. Every year, it’s staffed with approximately 200 dedicated volunteers who have one goal in mind: to scare the shit out of you. They’re good at it, too. Arx Mortis is a professional operation, and 2017 is their year to redeem themselves and get back on top. Arx Mortis is also a combination safe haven / therapist office for the misunderstood and mistreated, a dark and demonic take on the Island of Misfit Toys. Family of Fear is their story.
Director Stephen Lackey (TV series Con Trek) wants you to know what it’s like behind the scenes of the seminal ingredient of everyone’s Halloween season, but what he really wants you to do is feel what the job really means to the people who staff these attractions. More importantly, he wants you to know who they are. The aptly titled Family of Fear is all about the importance of family. Everybody deserves a family they can feel safe with, and Arx Mortis is a family that you’d be fortunate to be a part of.
This is a documentary film, and as such it’s full of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage that work to varying degrees. Some of the musical choices and the repetition thereof are a little jarring, but it’s competently constructed and well-shot. Every stage of the season (from actor training in the summer all the way to closing shop on November 1st) is covered in loving detail. You get to experience what it’s like to work there and go through the haunt as a guest. The staff interviewed are a motley crew of folks, all of whom are damaged and bullied in some way. They’re all brutally honest in the best way possible, and the reality is sobering.
Seeing the passion of the group and what they mean to each other is uplifting. The process is therapy for them, but Family of Fear isn’t asking you for sympathy. Rather, it asks you to consider how you treat people and to understand that everyone has a story. You’ve undoubtedly seen the meme that pops on a social media feed every other week that says something to that effect, but Family of Fear accurately humanizes the lesson in a blood-soaked language that we horror freaks of the world can understand on an instinctive level.
It’s not the first documentary on the subject of haunted attractions by any stretch of the imagination (see Haunters: Art of the Scare or Monsters Wanted for more nasty fun), but Family of Fear is the first to focus on the aspect of the therapeutic value of a good scare, whether you’re the one doing the scaring or the one who just peed herself.
Yes, there’s pants-wetting involved. How can you complain about that?