WNUF Halloween Special
Dir. Chris LaMartina (2013)
WNUF hosted a Halloween special in 1987, where local newscasters attempted to do a séance in an allegedly haunted house. Thankfully, someone taped it.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I jumped on this one as soon as it was announced from Vinegar Syndrome, having checked it out on YouTube several years back. Growing up in the 80’s, I’ve seen this film many times over (without the ending, of course), because this is a dead-on parody of news programs from that era. The film is so well done that I found myself forgetting that I was watching a modern movie several times throughout the film. Complete with faux snow effects and with a low-fi aesthetic, LaMartina absolutely nails this film as a nostalgic treasure for anyone older than 30.
It’s a brilliant idea for a film, presenting a fake Halloween special told in all of it’s 1987 glory, and every piece of it is a relic from a time unfortunately gone-by. Paul Fahrenkopf is phenomenal as newscaster Frank Stewart, the harumphing street reporter on the scene for the séance in the infamous Webber House, the site of a The Spirit Board Murders twenty years before the events of this film. Stewart teams up with Father Matheson (Robert Long II) and paranormal investigators Louis (Brian St. August) and Claire (Helenmary Ball) Berger to attempt to summon the spirits of those that died during that event. Naturally, things go a bit awry, throwing some actual scares at the audience punctuated by some legitimately funny moments.
The film does drag at times, perhaps committing a bit too much to the bit to create a film that is a “fun” watch. It’s slow, but it’s accurate, very much a showcase of what television was like in the 80’s. God only knows how many times I sat through the most boring nonsense from my local channel awaiting the segments they promised were coming “right after the commercial break.” The commercials are also fantastic, from the Hazlehurst Oil ad about “unavoidable oil spills” to the Demolition Derby commercial that tells you that “they’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge!” WNUF even shows the movie ads with the voiceover by the local affiliate, describing the movies with a local flair and a terrible sense of humor. It’s all there, just like it would have been had this actually been taped in 1987.
WNUF Halloween Special is a one-of-a-kind indie phenomenon, a modern cult classic that blew people away when it was released in 2013. If you grew up in the 80’s, you had a local newscaster like Frank Stewart. You played at a mall arcade like Tokens, and those damn drug commercials were everywhere. It’s difficult to explain exactly what the 80’s looked and felt like, but WNUF comes about as close as possible to replicating that experience. It’s truly an amazing accomplishment to be able to capture an entire generation of television in one film, but LaMartina has managed to do it with this film. It’s rare that I would label a film an “experience,” but this one fits the bill like very few others.
Who this movie is for: Horror comedy lovers, Nostalgic 80’s horror fans, TV news reporters
Bottom line: WNUF Halloween Special is an extraordinary film, one that encapsulates everything that watching local television was like in the 80’s. The commercials are hilarious, the scares, while not that frequent, are good, and the comedy hits more than it misses. Paul Fahrenkopf is outstanding as newscaster Frank Stewart, and every member of the cast knocks their role out of the park. It’s a bit slow, and it does sometimes remind us that television in the 80’s wasn’t that great, but it is a pitch-perfect recreation of my childhood. Nostalgia alone would make this one worth a watch, but it’s a fantastic film even if you aren’t old as fuck. Definitely recommend checking this out, especially with Vinegar Syndrome’s excellent blu ray release. LaMartina has a sequel to the film as well, which I was lucky enough to check out at Terror Vision Fright Fest 2022.