Spooktacular! Looks at the rise and fall of the first Haunted Theme Park; Spooky World. Playing at Fantastic Fest 2023.
Before every Halloween became a multi-billion dollar industry there were men and women who pushed it to become that very thing without even their knowledge. Just a love for all things of the Macabre. Director Quinn Monahan’s Spooktacular! follows one such man. David Bertolino through a tumultuous family life and a lot of luck became one of the epicenters for what modern-day Halloween looks like. Bertolino in the early 1990s found the perfect place to set up a small “hayride tour” in Berlin, Mass. What begins as a “hayride tour” turns into a full-on Theme Park open only for the Month of October. A Theme Park that would attract all the Luminaires of the genre and count FX Master Tom Savini as one of its creatives.
Much like the similarly themed Action Park, Monahan’s documentary charts the rise and ultimate fall of a theme park’s eventual success that is pushed out of business by conditions and factors both in and out of their control. There is a wonderful nostalgia that permeates throughout the film but never as much to be maudlin. Spooktacular! understands the fond memories of what once was but never at the expense of the issues that did arise out of owning and maintaining something as unruly as a theme park.
Featuring not just celebrities and horror legends, Spooktacular!, also ensures that the folks of Berlin and Massachusetts who were employed and helped create Spooky World what it became. Monahan’s adroit choice to not only interview the likes of Linda Blair, Tiny Tim, and Savini with the costumed cast members, the goon squad (you’ll understand later) also Bertolin and his crew but to balance those stories, anecdotes, and opinions is the film’s greatest strength. That choice along with a keen eye for editing the amazing footage taken from Newscasts, TV Interviews, and shot-found footage elevates this beyond a “talking head” doc that many of these can be.
Regardless of whether you know of or went to Spooky World, Spooktacular! is a charming insightful documentary perfect for Halloween.
Note: Stick around for the end credits for some special additional footage!