Executive produced by Tom Savini, Fantastic Fest 2023 doc SPOOKTACULAR! by filmmaker Quinn Monahan takes us back to a place I never knew existed. Now that it’s gone, I’m incredibly jealous. It’s time to tell the tale of Spooky World.
1991, in the middle of a Massachusetts cornfield, open every day in October, Dave Bertolino‘s Spooky World was a horror con and a theme park. It was the first dedicated haunted attraction, paving the way for every modern-day, big-name fright night across the country. Built on a dollar and a dream, Spooky World grew more popular and went through numerous iterations. As one of the first featured guests, Tom Savini’s direct influence on Spookyworld shifted from a homegrown haunted hayride to a proper frightening experience within a year, with Tom building his own branded Haunted House. The busier the park, the more elaborate and inventive Bertolino had to become.
The townspeople of Berlin had a fantastic relationship with Bertolino. Bringing jobs, money, and recognition to a sleepy farming town. But, not everyone was thrilled with the boundary-pushing additions, playing politics and making Bertilino’s job harder. That’s not to say that his antics and ideas came without skepticism from within.
The editing by Stefan Avalos and Bill Tartaglia is a wonder. The film uses archival footage, sit-down interviews, and home videos from the opening nights and beyond. David Bertolino’s inspiration came from Vincent Price and his showmanship, and Monahan, Avalos, and Tartaglia use numerous clips from his films as transition pieces. It’s delightful.
Growing up in northern Connecticut, I cannot believe I never ventured up the Spooky World as a self-proclaimed Halloween addict and horror fanatic. I’m thankful the park ever existed, and its humble and exciting existence spread like wildfire so that global genre fans could care and scare together.