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Local Haunt Readies World Premiere Of Boo Crew Documentary

Friday September 22nd, 2023, 9:00am


Showcasing new frights, a local haunt is ready for a season premiere on two fronts.

With Halloween just over a month away, Scarehouse Windsor (located at McDougall Avenue) unveiled its latest changes on Friday September 15. Beyond opening to the public however, the venue will be featured on an eight part docuseries as well: Debuting on October 3, The Boo Crew will air on Bell’s Fibe TV 1 and have a world premiere screening at Scarehouse Windsor on October 1st.

Filming last year, it didn’t take long to warrant more episodes than originally planned.

“Fibe TV 1 contracted six-episodes but as I was editing, I had so much story to tell,” said director Gavin Michael Booth. “I was a bit of an over-achiever and turned in an extra two episodes. The editing process is always tough. I could have filled twelve episodes with the story content we had, but you have to constantly think about the parameters of what you are delivering and what’s the most important way to tell a concise story.”

Although episodes can be watched individually, that story also builds as they connect. In the end, viewers get to know The Boo Crew as they work towards making Scarehouse Windsor a success.

Illustrating their efforts, the director also used archival footage. Shooting a film at one of their past locations and being involved with them for years, he had plenty to choose from.

“A big part of season one is telling the history,” he said. “How did The Boo Crew form? What led them to starting a haunted house in downtown Windsor? All the different temporary locations they’ve had. When did they move into the massive building on McDougall they are at now? I want viewers to see that Windsor’s haunted house has grown from humble beginnings into a massive seasonal attraction. I’m taking viewers through the creative process of designing and building attractions, what it takes to manage fifty to one hundred scare actors each year. I also want people to understand how much Scarehouse Windsor is involved in the community they represent.”

For real-time content, Booth had rough episode outlines. Even so, he also knew that blueprints change as things get built. Wanting to capture as much as possible, he and Cinematographer Garett McKelvie headed up a small camera team. Their camera trainee Lucas Rivard became the “B-Roll Master,” capturing insert footage and b-roll from Scarehouse Windsor. Having four separate mazes and dinner rooms, it occupied his time and was no small feat. Windsor’s Centre for Film, Digital Media & the Creative Arts also helped maximize the crew that covered everything.

Starting on August 1, Booth Made it a point to highlight construction of the haunt and “Deadway Bar & Kill” specifically. From there, cameras continued to roll throughout the attraction’s entire construction process and concluded when the venue closed on Halloween.

Shedding a light on what goes into the frights was important for the director to illustrate.

“I wanted people to see the blood, sweat & toes that go into building a haunted house and all of the scares within it,” said Booth. “And you read that correctly, I did say toes. in fact there is an episode titled ‘Blood, Sweat & Toes.’ We wanted to capture the spirit of what Scarehouse Windsor is – an awesome night out for guests both local and from a far. Scarehouse has become a tourist destination as it grows in popularity. We wanted to capture the interaction between the scare actors and the guests.”

A big part of that interaction is made possible through training at the haunt’s “Boo School.”

“Boo School comes from our crew nickname The Boo Crew,” said co-owner Shawn Lippert. “Boo School is exactly what it sounds like – we teach our scare actors the best way to give a ‘Boo!’ scare. You’ll see in The Boo Crew an entire episode dedicated to the inner workings of Boo School. We were also lucky enough to have professional film and television actor Sarah Booth come in and teach the scare specialists new improv skills. It was to help them hone in their character and ability to give the best experience possible for our customers. As the haunt crew, we realized we had a lot of dedicated people but not all of them knew the art of the scare. There are a lot of rules we implement to make great scares but at the same time keep our actors out of harm’s way. That is super important to us.”

Shawn is one of five key Boo Crew members who was interviewed for the show. This list also includes his wife Colleen Lippert, Dario Silvaggi, Tommy Gagnon and Mandy Biundo. All of them run a specific element at the venue but still contribute in several areas. Everyone interviewed is open and honest about what it took to build what now exists. This earnestness and work ethic allowed for scenarios that organically translate to reality television.

It also created personal connections for the show and those at the venue itself.

“The larger picture of how inclusive Scarehouse Windsor is jumped out at me,” said Gavin. “You have students, young adults and right on up that take part in The Boo Crew. People who love Halloween, horror movies and the macabre through inventors and engineers to renovation enthusiasts as well as all sorts of people in the performing arts. What I realized in creating the series is how all of these different backgrounds, genders, skill levels, etc come together to great magic for the Halloween season. If this was a high school cafeteria in a movie, I don’t think you’d find any of these people sat at the same table together. Yet at Scarehouse Windsor, all are welcome, all are equal and all work together in harmony.”

When it comes to this year, Scarehouse Windsor has undergone some big changes. A large stage and substantial bar upgrade have been put into place for the new event center. This means the space will host everything from art shows to film premieres and live music outside of Scarehouse Windsor’s usual hours. In addition, the area’s first mirror maze has been constructed along with a new maze haunt titled Ward 13. Menus have also been tweaked in the immersive dinner rooms as improvements are always made to the experience.

Although most things are for adults, the haunt now offers something for the whole family too.

“We have a wide variety of attractions for people to choose from now,” said Shawn. “The Deadway Bar & Kill for example means that you can hang out before heading into your next maze. You can make a night of Scarehouse Windsor. Parents can wait in the bar area and be entertained while their children go through the haunt. The mirror maze isn’t a scary attraction. It is family fun. No zombies, no jump scares, just a classic funhouse attraction or trying to navigate through the labyrinth of mirrors. As we continue to grow, we want to make sure we have something for everyone, not just those seeking an adrenaline rush.”

After eight weeks of editing and post-production, Gavin is happy with his finished show. While he wishes there had been room for certain topics, the director will soon get another chance. A second season of The Boo Crew is in the works and some footage may find a home there.

As for the first season, Gavin believes the story will surprise those who watch.

“I think it will take viewers behind the scenes of a truly unique business and leave people inspired to pursue their own passions and creativity,” he said. “Scarehouse Windsor is only open for twenty-three days each year and I think some people will drop their jaws at the amount of work The Boo Crew puts in to make those days a top-notch attraction.”

Shawn agrees the director did a good job of capturing what it takes to keep the scares coming.

“It’s awesome,” the haunt’s co-owner said. “I’ve always been a big supporter of Gavin’s work and of course he did our surprise wedding video that went viral. I never could have thought our friendship and collaboration could lead to Scarehouse Windsor having its own documentary television series though. You just can’t plan for things like this. I think he’s perfectly captured our personalities and the heart of what makes Scarehouse Windsor work. There are so many moments in the series I forgot happened, let alone that the camera was rolling for it. It is a portrait of everything that has brought us to where we are today and I think there isn’t anything but an upside for us to be featured on such a large stage.”

Although people can watch on Bell’s FIBE TV1 starting October 3, those interested can check out the world premiere two days earlier. Taking place on October 1 at 7:30pm, Scarehouse Windsor will host the screening at their event centre. Tickets are $10.00 each and can be purchased online. Special guests will be on hand and an afterparty is set to be held on site.

It’s also a way to enjoy the venue without having to look over your shoulder.

“People can watch the documentary inside the haunt they are learning about,” said Gavin. ” …It won’t be a scary night. The documentary isn’t scary and the haunt won’t be alive with all the ghosts and ghouls inside. So it’s an excellent time for people to come out and explore what Scarehouse Windsor is all about. For anyone that’s every been curious but too scared to walk through the mazes, this is a perfect night.”

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