Release Date(s)2013 (May 10, 2016)
Studio(s)Camp Motion Pictures
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
Imagine that you’ve dug out an old box of VHS tapes that you recorded from TV years ago, one of them being a Halloween special done by a local TV station in 1987. Let’s say there are a couple of newscasters dressed up for Halloween and, since it’s a slow news night, they’re running stories related to trick or treating. Not only that, but a local TV personality is doing an exposé on a supposedly real haunted house, and is going inside it live on the air. That should give you an idea of what to expect from the WNUF Halloween Special.
Unless you found a copy of it at a convention, chances are good that you’ve never heard of this “movie”. It’s a nostalgic throwback to anyone 30 and up, making it one of the more interesting programs to run during the Halloween season. It’s difficult to describe it as a movie, but it ultimately acts as one. It’s more of an experiment in low budget filmmaking than anything, using found footage in a fresh and creative way. Shot using modern equipment, it was later degraded using actual VCRs. Everything about it feels authentic, right down to the newscasters, their bad jokes, the commercials, and the haunted house special itself. There are even times when some of the commercials are fast-forwarded (as through a viewer was skipping them), which is a nice touch and also functions as a part of the narrative.
Authenticity is the whole ballgame here, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that there are people that take the WNUF Halloween Special completely seriously when they first see it. Low budget filmmaker Chris LaMartina certainly found a way to make found footage worth pursuing again, and I’m actually shocked that there aren’t clones of it floating around out there. Even the performances feel fairly genuine and not necessarily tongue-in-cheek. It may seem like a spoof on the surface, but it acts as a piece of storytelling as well.
As for the visual and aural quality of this release, there really isn’t much to say. It’s difficult to judge something that’s meant to look so degraded. For what it is, it’s clear enough and you can understand what’s going on at all times (unless you’re not meant to). It has the proper use of colors and brightness levels to make it as authentic as possible without coming off as a slicker presentation. Aurally, it’s much of the same. There are dropouts and other sound problems, not to mention on-set recording without the use boom mics, which makes it all the more genuine. Again, you hear what you need to hear and understand what’s happening without any struggle. For what it is, it’s a solid presentation. Unfortunately, there are no subtitle options.
There’s also a very nice set of extras for this release on the disc. There’s an audio commentary with director Chris LaMartina; a set of commercials that didn’t make the final cut; the Shitty on Purpose: How We Aged WNUF featurette; a set of bloopers and outtakes; Rewinding the Fast Forward, which includes the segments that were fast-forwarded through in the final film; the movie’s trailer; The Meadowlands Showcase, which includes two additional short films: Creepy Tales and The Halloween Takeover; and a Trailer Vault, which includes trailers for The Basement, Cannibal Campout, Documenting the Grey Man, Trippin, Video Violence, and Woodchipper Massacre, plus information on how to get an “Alternative Cinema” catalogue.
What it boils down to is that I really enjoyed the WNUF Halloween Special. Even though it does hearken back to simpler times, I think it can certainly work for people who were born after the VHS boom. It may be nostalgic by nature, but it works as a movie of sorts as well. And if you enjoy movies like Unfriended or Blair Witch, this is certainly worth your time. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons