WNUF Halloween Special (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)2013 (October 26, 2021)
Studio(s)Midnight Crew Studios (Terror Vision/Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- 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 40 and up, making it one of the more interesting programs to run during the Halloween season. It’s difficult to describe it as a film, 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. 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 through, which is a nice touch, but it also functions as a part of the overall narrative.
Authenticity is the whole ballgame here, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to learn that there are people that take the WNUF Halloween Special completely seriously when they first see it. Low budget filmmaker Chris LaMartina and his crew certainly found a way to make found footage worth pursuing again, and it’s shocking that there aren’t clones of it floating around (though there is a sequel). 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.
The WNUF Halloween Special was shot by Chris LaMartina and others using a mixture of S-VHS and DV cameras for the news and special segments. Also throughout the film is VHS footage from a variety of sources. All of this was cut together and degraded by passing the final edit through a VCR three times, with much of the tape-sourced imperfections added in beforehand. Terror Vision’s Blu-ray release doesn’t try to improve the intended look of the film at all, meaning that it’s still low grade footage, but presented in the highest quality possible. The biggest advantage is the compression, which is improved over the previous DVD release of the film. It’s also 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 color and brightness to make it seem as authentic as possible without coming off as a slicker-looking presentation.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. Aurally, it’s much of the same. There are dropouts and other sound problems, not to mention on-set recording without the use of boom mics, which makes it all the more genuine. You hear what you need to hear and understand what’s happening without any struggle.
The WNUF Halloween Special on Blu-ray sits in a clear amaray case with the film’s main artwork on the front of the insert. A limited edition embossed slipcover designed by Earl Kessler, Jr., of which only 4,000 units were produced, was included if ordered direct through Vinegar Syndrome. That slipcover is now sold out. The following extras are included on the disc, all of them in the same quality as the main presentation:
- Audio Commentary with Chris LaMartina, Jimmy George, Helenmary Ball, Robert Long, and Brian St. August
- Audio Commentary with Chris LaMartina
- Original Trailer (1:31)
- Cutting Room Commercials (19 in all – 7:17)
- Shitty on Purpose: How We Aged WNUF (1:14)
- WNUF Christmas Special (1:09)
- Outtakes & Bloopers (7:36)
- Long Lost WNUF Commercials (6:01)
- Rewinding the Fast-Forward Segments (4:29)
- Terror Vision Records’ WNUF Album Promo (1:06)
The first audio commentary was recorded exclusively for this Blu-ray release with director Chris LaMartina, co-writer and co-producer Jimmy George, and actors Helenmary Ball, Robert Long, and Brian St. August. It’s a fairly breathless commentary with the ship run mostly by LaMartina and George, but as they all watch the film together, they discuss how they got involved in it and what it was like to work on it. The second audio commentary features LaMartina again, which was recorded for the Camp Motion Pictures DVD release, but this time he flies solo. Very much like the first commentary, he’s very energetic and provides lots of information about the film. In addition, there’s the film’s original trailer; a set of commercials that didn’t make the final cut; the Shitty on Purpose featurette, which offers a side-by-side comparison of the original footage prior to being degraded; a snippet of the WNUF Christmas Special, which was made after the fact as a joke; a set of bloopers and outtakes; additional commercials that were also not used in the final film, which is new to this release; Rewinding the Fast Forward, which includes segments that were fast-forwarded through in the film; and a promo for Terror Vision Records’ WNUF album.
Not carried over from the previous Camp Motion Pictures DVD release is The Meadowlands Showcase, which includes two additional short films: Creepy Tales and The Halloween Takeover; and trailers for The Basement, Cannibal Campout, Documenting the Grey Man, Trippin, Video Violence, and Woodchipper Massacre.
Though the WNUF Halloween Special hearkens back to simpler times, it can certainly work for those who were born after local TV and VHS became things of the past. Terror Vision’s upgrade offers slightly improved picture quality and additional extras, making this the only release of the film to own on disc. Highly recommended viewing for the Halloween season.
- Tim Salmons
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