The WNUF Halloween Special: A Seasonal Nostalgia Bomb
This is not a review. It’s important you understand that right from the get-go. I’m not qualified to review movies; that’s true. More importantly, I’m incredibly biased when it comes to certain things. The WNUF Halloween Special effectively combines at least three of my personal obsessions into one fantastic package: an 80’s era Halloween special released exclusively on VHS. If you’ve read my article, Top Ten Reasons Horror Fans Love the 80’s–which includes the VHS as number four–you probably understand where I’m coming from.
When I first heard about this, the article I read initially passed the movie off as an actual, live Halloween special that had been taped by a viewer using their VCR, then lost for decades. During this infamous broadcast, some crazy shit happens. The kind of shit that would ensure the footage is never aired again, hence why the only copy would be a long-lost VHS. Later in that same article the author lets on that the back story is a hoax, and the movie a complete fiction.
Here’s the full synopsis sourced from IMDB:
Originally broadcast live on October 31, 1987, the ‘WNUF Halloween Special’ is a stunning expose of terrifying supernatural activity that unfolded at the infamous Webber House, the site of ghastly murders. Local television personality Frank Stewart leads a group of paranormal investigators including Catholic exorcist, Father Joseph Matheson and the prolific husband-and-wife team Louis and Claire Berger. Together, the experts explore the darkest corners of the supposedly haunted Webber House, trying to prove the existence of the demonic entities within. Did they find the horrific truth or simply put superstitious rumors to rest?
Some people are bothered by what they call the “Blair Witch Effect.” Maybe they are annoyed that someone tried to put one over on them. Or perhaps they feel it’s a tired gimmick. Personally, the attempts to pass the movie off as authentic (leaving copies of it littered around tape trading conventions for people to stumble across, for instance), don’t bother me in the least. In fact, even though I knew the truth, I still preferred to watch the film as though it were real (which as it turns out, isn’t too hard to do, as I’ll explain later). All I cared about was the promise of a Halloween nostalgia bomb, and the WNUF Halloween Special absolutely delivers.
In order to create authenticity, the writer/director Chris LaMartina and co-writer Jimmy George, fabricated an entire evening news cast, complete with commercial breaks (many of which are seasonal). So real are these commercials that as you watch the movie, the commercial breaks become more “adult” as the evening wares on, just as you would expect while watching television. Commercials for arcades and Halloween makeup kits give way to tampon commercials and heavy metal CD compilations. There are moments when the tape is automatically fast forwarded past certain commercials or news stories, often with a humorous effect. What we are left with is the feeling of watching a real Halloween special from 1987, as if you rummaged around your closet and found a crudely titled VHS and decided to pop it in the VCR for a gander.
That is the attraction. If you were alive during the 80’s and you are a fan of Halloween or horror, this tape brings you right back to your childhood. If, however, you are not from that era, you may find the many commercial breaks between the actual plot of the movie to be cumbersome or tiring. This may especially be true if you have only ever known TV through the electronic eye of a DVR, being able to fast forward through all commercials at any given moment. You may even be tempted to fast forward through the commercials on the WNUF VHS, though they are an integral part of the experience.
And really, that’s the point. This is a movie experience, meant to be shared with like-minded friends over a couple sixers of pumpkin ale with a nearby bowls of roasted pumpkin seeds and Halloween candy. If watched in this manner, you will love every damn second of this thing. You may even forget you’re watching a fictionalized movie, so authentic are the effects used. The overexposed film of the newscast, the 80’s style music peppering the commercials, the wardrobe, the cheesy effects, it all feels real. This is true of the acting as well, which comes across as completely genuine and never forced. In fact, I plan on showing this movie to unsuspecting friends to see if they believe it is a real broadcast from 1987.
If I were a movie critic, and if this was a review, I might point out some of the weaker aspects of the movie, of which there are a few. Quite possibly the most detrimental is the pacing. Anyone who is not as in love with geeking out to the campy 80’s commercials of call-in, monster hotlines and petting zoos might become frustrated waiting for the plot to move forward. And anyone expecting true scares from this might be similarly disappointed.
Yet, there is an undeniable charm to the WNUF Halloween Special. It might require the right childhood memories and a particular fondness for Halloween, but this movie is something special. I can say, without a doubt, it will hold a place of honor during my yearly Halloween movie marathons. And during those multiple viewings, I’ll be sure to continue looking for the many genre allusions LaMartina lovingly placed throughout the film. If you’d like to join me this Halloween season, you better move quickly. This VHS is limited to a mere 300 copies.