It’s that time of year when I salivate in anticipation of Halloween-themed horror movies flooding the market, and American Fright Fest is the first to sneak onto Amazon Prime. Yes, it’s another haunted attraction horror flick, but this one offers something a little different while keeping us safely in that comfort zone of post-Scream slasher nostalgia.
Up and coming horror king Luke Baines (The Girl in the Photographs, As Night Comes, The Possession of Michael King) kicks things off in a scene loaded with Halloween spirit…and his parents’ heads being blown away. He’s locked up.
Meanwhile, a popular horror director, played by veteran actor Dylan Walsh (The Stepfather remake) is just out of rehab and put in charge of running a fright fest at an old asylum. Unfortunately, just as the fright fest gets underway, a prisoner transport van crashes, and Luke Baines and fellow inmates escape to join the festivities…
For a change we get a haunted attraction film that doesn’t fill time with footage of visitors going through it.
There isn’t really any haunted attraction eye candy at all, which is surprising—it’s like the old, deteriorated asylum is left to speak for itself instead of being adorned with horror décor. However, there is some man candy, including the leader of the convicts.
The cheap jolts come when the director messes with the attraction actors during their tour of the space with his assistant, played by Pancho Moler (Rob Zombie’s 31), who is one of the strongest characters in the film. For aside from Moler and Dylan Walsh, the character development is pretty forgettable, with the introduction and interactions of the main cast being very reminiscent of late 90s/early 2000s slashers. The big surprise (aka: disappointment) is that no one goes off to have sex!
When the shit hits the fan (or prisoner transport van, in this case), the focus is on the attraction actors getting chased and killed, while the tons of visitors scatter like cockroaches, never to be seen again.
The killers don creepy masks and there are some good kills and okay gore, but the real suspense doesn’t hit until the core group has to team up with Luke Baines to stay alive and figure a way out of the asylum (they should have just followed all the cockroaches).
It’s a pretty satisfying throwback to the golden age of slashers that paid homage to the golden age of slashers. The only thing really missing is Halloween atmosphere and spirit after the first scene with Luke Baines and his parents. Since the asylum is just drab walls and sets, there is no sign of Halloween spirit! Also, the very ending is such an unfair bummer. Frustrating as hell, actually.