Fake news is best news.
WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL(2013)
Director: Chris LaMartina
Writer: Chris LaMartina, Jimmy George, Pat Storck
Stars: Patricia Mizen, Paul Fahrenkopf, Cary Anderson
In 1987, TV Station WNUF 28 prepared to celebrate Halloween with a LIVE broadcast of a seance in a haunted house. Things didn’t go as planned. Someone recorded it on a V/H/S. This is the found footage.
As this is my last review for this series (I’m thinking of doing something else later on), I wanted to go out with something special. I’ve tooled with the idea of getting something terribly crappy (à la Witchdoctor of the Living Dead), something funny (like reviewing Gigli as a horror movie) but when I heard about WNUF Halloween Special, I’ve tried to find out if I could find a copy. It meant trying to find one of the fifty VHS tapes LaMartina had dropped at VHS conventions, or copies of said VHS. Or wait for the upcoming DVD version but that would have been too late for my goal. And then I read online that LaMartina had also leaked digital copies to certain questionable movies websites like Cinemageddon (where you can find Witchdoctor of the Living Dead, by the way). This was his way of trying to get the movie known.
So a movie freely uploaded to a sharing website, free for me to access? To say that I was glad would be a major understatement. I craved this movie for many reason, one of which being that this was the sort of thing I watched on TV in the 80s. In 1987, I was six years old. I was getting just old enough to start getting spooked by news broadcasts and especially stories about the devil and haunted houses (I had already lived my own strange haunted house experience, though I don’t believe now that it was haunted at all… but that’s another story). This would have been the sort of thing I’d be watching, sitting on the floor in front of the big TV.
And sure enough,it is that kind of strong nostalgia I’ve felt while watching WNUF. The movie is brilliant in the way it uses public domain footage from that era to populate the video with enough credibility to make it appear genuine. Oh, you know that the main segments are fake; they’re just too aware to be from 1987. Still, it’s done well enough (in this instance, well meaning “purposefully crappy”) that you don’t really care if it is or it’s not. You’re washed away by the amount of call backs to a more innocent time, where drug PSAs popped up every 5 minutes and everyone wore mustaches.
WNUF is a horror movie, for sure. There’s a haunted house, there’s a plot and a resolution. But it’s more than this. It’s pure, synthetic nostalgia. It’s fabricated not really to scare you but to make you feel like you did back then. This is an experience that only 80’s viewers and especially kids, who were formed by these years, will be able to fully relate to. You don’t ever stop being an 80’s kid and it’s always appalling when you see these fads being used ironically by current generations. WNUF doesn’t fall for that trap: it’s a movie about the 80’s, made to look like the 80’s. Not as a joke, not to make fun of it but to remind ourselves of it.
The story itself is rather cliché but that plays well with the rest of the scenes and commercials. It was an age of plastic and falseness and bright colours; even the commercials are showing terribly cliché TV shows that don’t exist but who pay homage to shows that really existed. A busy woman and a stray dog teaming up in “Doggone It”. A multiracial police team investigating drug crimes in “Chicago Lightning” (with fonts reminiscent of Miami Vice). It’s again well crafted to make it look like it’s from that era. And it works surprisingly well.
As for the “tape” itself, Chris LaMartina uses genius ideas to “edit” the broadcast. What you’re watching is a bootleg copy of a recording made in 1987. The copy features moments where the person copying the tape fast-forwarded the original, or didn’t press play at the right time, thus skipping repeating commercials or unimportant reports that go nowhere (but add to the flavour of the piece). It’s not something that would ever work in a traditional found footage movie but because you know this is a copy of a recording, it does.
The best way I can resume my experience is that WNUF Halloween Special isn’t that good of a story but it’s an amazing movie, especially for people of my age range.
I’m giving it four carpet commercials out of five.