A short haunted house film that delves deeper

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GREAT BARRINGTON — In Matt Greene-DeLanghe's "The Year of the Haunted House," actual horror is a small part of the story, a narrative that isn't borne strictly from the imagination.

Greene-DeLanghe based the short film, which premieres at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Oct. 28, on his childhood in Great Barrington. During that time, his father and fellow neighborhood kids would build a haunted house before each Halloween. The preparation for trick-or-treaters was a lengthy and highly collaborative process, one that Greene-DeLanghe's work focuses on extensively.

"We're recreating the same haunted house we did 20 years ago in a sense, only this time putting it on film," the 31-year-old filmmaker told The Eagle during a recent telephone interview, "so the goal back then was to entertain, and now it's the same thing, only up on the screen."

The approximately 19-minute film includes rubber snakes and hanging ropes and a fake guillotine; Greene-DeLanghe's father was adept at building contraptions, according to his son.

"My dad was an engineer who just loved this kind of stuff, and he would build these really impressive kind of apparatuses," Greene-DeLanghe recalled.

Constructing the haunted house became tradition and a communal activity. The collective excitement of friends and family members for the project is palpable on screen.

The film was shot during six July days in New Lebanon, N.Y., and in the basement of a church in Housatonic. The latter underwent a renovation shortly after the shoot wrapped.

"For the shoot, it was this great, old — 100-year-old — basement, and it looked perfect," Greene-DeLanghe said.

A portion of the cast and crew members came from the area, with Greene-DeLanghe getting some help from Great Barrington middle schools.

"The making of the film was the same kind of community thing [as building the haunted house]," Greene-DeLanghe said

The filmmaker often visited the Mahaiwe during his youth, he said, including to see "Jurassic Park." Since then, he has enjoyed going to concerts at the venue, such as a Maceo Parker show.

"The Mahaiwe's really a special place," said Greene-DeLanghe, who now lives in Minnesota.

After his time in the South County town, Greene-Delanghe studied film at New York University. Though he didn't immediately seek a career in his undergraduate area of focus, this particular project kept calling to him when he later pursued his master's in education.

"In the midst of finals, I would take a break from my books and just start writing," he said.

A Kickstarter campaign that began about a year ago supported the project. The film's page on the website promoted the film as being something a bit heavier than a haunted house flick.

"It's about the loss you experience when childhood comes to an end. It's also about the loss my father experienced during that time when his own father died of cancer, and my 11-year-old perspective of my father's grief," Greene-DeLanghe wrote for the page.

The film delivers on exploring these themes; the death of Greene-DeLanghe's grandfather, for example, is alluded to almost immediately.

"The haunted house sort of becomes this way for the father to work through his grief," Greene-DeLanghe said.

But these weightier matters are kept in the background.

"It doesn't hit you over the head," the filmmaker said. "First and foremost, it's a fun ride that kids, adults, anyone can kind of jump on."

IF YOU GO...

What: "The Year of the Haunted House" (run time approx. 19 min.)

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28

Where: The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle St., Great Barrington

Tickets: Free (filmmaker will accept donations in lobby)

Information: Q & A to with the director and cast and crew members; 413-528-0100; mahaiwe.org


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