This one I think is going to be short and sweet. Or at least that’s how I’m approaching this one because I just don’t feel like I have a whole lot to say on the matter. I could get on a roll. I could tap into some sort of hidden reserve I have for this particular film but I’m not going to hold my breath as I just don’t think it’s there. I picked this one from Hulu’s front page as I’d seen it a couple of times and it scratch an itch I think I may have imposed on this venture. I’ve been fairly loose with my guidelines on what fits the bill for this spooky season adventure I’m on here. Outside of these movies being ones I’ve never been and at least considered horror by some relatively established governing body, in this case Hulu itself, they “count” towards what I’m doing. And this isn’t even some big to do. It’s just a fun way to mark the Halloween season as a movie fan. This time of year there’s an influx of horror flicks and everyone is in the mood to be scared. I’ve watched a number of films through the first half of this month and as we hit the middle I realized one of the things I wanted to include at some point was a documentary. I don’t know if it was just because this one seemed to be low hanging fruit or what but I fired up this film tonight to satisfy this particular requirement I’ve arbitrarily imposed to graduate at the end of the month.
Monster Inside: America’s Most Extreme Haunted House is a look at Russ McKamey, the creator of the aforementioned “most extreme haunted house”. For all intents and purposes, the guy seems more like a serial killer who just hasn’t been caught yet. It’s been a good many years since I’ve been to any kind of “haunted” affair around this time of year. It was probably some time in my late 20’s the last time there was an occasion to entertain such an attraction. Locally I’d been a fan of a program called “Danger Run”. They didn’t just bundle two haunts for a reasonable price but also a contest. When you started at one of their strategically placed locations you would drive up and get your book from them when you purchased your tickets. If you were able to get 4 or more into a vehicle, there were often other goodies like a gas gift card and coupons for frere DQ food as they were partnered up in this event. You’d give the person either your odometer count at the beginning or your start a trip odometer at 0 to count for you as you started on your way. See the booklet was instructions on how to get to both the first and second haunt but done so in clues. Some were relatively easy but others might require peering into a rear view mirror at just the right time to find a secret message telling you where to go next. As someone who greatly enjoys puzzles, this aspect of the evening was far more entertaining to me than anything else. On the occasions we were able to undertake a challenge like this we would undoubtedly take a wrong turn somewhere and eventually try and back up to get ourselves back on track before 30 minutes later getting frustrated and cheating our way to the first haunt. I think only one year did we even make it to the second one as the night dragged on and we lost steam. But the idea of it all was a good time to be had by all. And typically when we did venture out on an evening like that, we did have a relatively good time. I’m not easily scared at venues like these. I enjoy them tremendously but I’m not their target audience. I’m a relatively big guy so I’m typically more imposing than a lot of the actual ghosts, ghouls and goblins waiting to jump out. Plus with as many movies as I’ve watched, jump scares don’t get me hardly ever. Not to say never. None of this is to purport that I’m some sort of tough guy that I’m certainly not. It’s just that I’m not who they are going to try and scare most of the time. And I was ok with it. Many a time I’d try to get them to break character by cracking wise, as I’m known to do from time to time. All this being said, this is the level of “terror” I’m willing to invest in when it comes to a recreational haunting.
It turns out that there is a whole other class of people out there that takes haunting to a much more extreme level. And they would look at me as a giant wuss for tapping out at a chainless chainsaw massacre and plastic Freddy Kruger gloves and masks on a teenager hiding in a corn maze. There is a whole subset of the population eager for the most extreme treatment you can go through to get a real life scare. And I’m not talking just a ghostface who can grab you or a Jason jumping out in your face. I’m talking people that can do real, genuine harm to you. I’m talking 40 page consent forms. I’m talking safe words. Things can get seriously extreme out there and I’m not here for it. But I’m not their intended audience either. Monster Inside focuses in on a handful of these people who are drawn to the most horrific of haunts. And for a good long while there was one name that stood out above all the others. Russ McKamey.
This documentary takes a look at 4 or 5 people who have endured “McKamey Manor” and are able to tell the tale. This experience is shown through video footage of these people actually enduring some truly terrifying acts of what I would consider to be legitimate torture. It’s not over the top in the sense of something like Saw or Hostel. There’s nobody being carved up. There isn’t buckets of blood or anything like that. But there is real depravity. There’s people allowing themselves to be put in some genuinely awful situations where you can’t totally believe they survived it. If they were sitting there alive talking to you about it, you might be able to convince yourself this documentary is nothing but snuff films. Being locked inside a freezer while spiders, your biggest fear, are put on you. Being seemingly buried alive, little by little. Being sleep deprived for 30 hours and made to do all manner of demeaning tricks. It’s supposed to be purposefully induced terror matched up to the fears of the person attempting to scare themselves via an outward means exponentially greater than that of a “Haunted Hospital”. But the reality is that its the insanity of a smooth talking sociopath being enacted upon what is considered to be willing participants. In the end, I do not believe this is the case at all. Russ McKamey is a sick and twisted person who has sold the public a bill of goods that I think when delivered are not what people are expecting. The disconnect between those expectations and the distinctly cruel and degrading fashion by which McKamey simply tortures people and has a good old time doing it, is akin to the Grand Canyon. Some people stand by it. One of the girls in the documentary went on to be a sort of assistant for McKamey. She reminded me considerably of the character Amanda in the Saw franchise played by Shawnee Smith. Someone initially entrapped by the mastermind she became a protege after feeling this freedom that came with her survival of his game. I know that’s meant to give some measure of credence to the methods by which Jigsaw “saves” people but it doesn’t really fly. And I will admit that the Saw movies can be enjoyable, but purely in a vacuum. To truly enjoy the tortuous nature of what happens and revel in that aspect of the depravity is far less enjoyable. Partially it’s the twists in many of the early on installments in the franchise that support any kind of entertaining notion to the films. But even those you can at least turn off and know that it’s all just made up. It’s only a movie. Well, this isn’t in McKamey’s case. Granted, he’s not strapping reverse bear traps to people’s heads and giving themselves 60 seconds to cut a key out of themselves. But waterboarding, sleep deprivation and many of the other claustrophobic containments he entertains are nothing short of sinister in my estimation, and a great many others as well.
When I get right down to it, measuring this film on any kind of merit isn’t really there. I’ve watched other horror documentaries that were far better. I regret this pick even still as I think if I’d been a little more deliberate in my selection of a horror documentary I hadn’t yet seen I still would have been able to find one with a great deal more quality to it than this one. Even to measure this on it’s own as a documentary is unenthusiastic. It wasn’t terribly entertaining, even with the nature of the content aside. It was only about 80 minutes long but it felt like an eternity. There were a handful of individual stories that were woven together but there was no real progression of story. There didn’t even seem to be a whole lot of point as the conclusion didn’t seem to pick one way or another whether they thought McKamey was a good guy or a bad guy. And I suppose in some rights that not their place to say. In leaving it up to the audience I suppose there’s some merit to what they did. But at the same time it wasn’t entertaining. I’ve watched a number of documentaries on all manner of subjects. There’s a fantastic documentary on the making of The Shining called “Room 237”. I wish at this point I hadn’t already seen it so I could have watched that and critiqued it. It’s a fantastic horror documentary. This one just sort of exists. In the modern factory of streaming content cultivation, documentaries that are pumped out by these vehicles can be problematic. There’s certainly a desire for documentary consumption and anything that’s even remotely interesting can be transformed into an educational film with the right people at the helm. I’m not entirely sure who put this together or what their vision was when they set out to make this particular documentary but I have to say that I just feel like it falls flat. The subject matter isn’t so egregious that it causes some sort of involuntary gag reflect. It’s extreme, sure. But it’s not over the top. It just sort of exists in it’s own echo chamber. It’s there to tell you the story about a guy that I don’t think anyone should really care about and who seems to be waning in any real public relevance, if there ever was any to Russ McKamey. This feels like a last ditch effort to garner any remaining notability from a name that only has significance in very small and specific circles. I know at one point he was being covered by any number of national news outlets but I don’t think those stories run much anymore these days. I don’t even know what I’d give this film. A 1 out of 10. I don’t know. I didn’t enjoy it. It was truly a waste of time. I think if anything I’m more frustrated that I wasted a day in this little project on something as vacuous as this garbage. So I can’t recommend a watch. If you’re looking for a horror documentary to scratch both of those itches this spooky season, dig a little farther. Room 237 is great. Cropsey is another pretty decent documentary that pops up as a “horror” documentary thought to me it read more a true crime that’s a little spooky. Whatever your taste is, just do better than this one for yourself. You deserve better than this movie. Trust me. So until next time, I’ll catch you on the flip side.