In 1987, public access channel WNUF held a Halloween special where one of their local reporters was sent to do a live investigation of a haunted house where a son, supposedly possessed by demons, killed his parents in the back in the '70s. Due to the mysterious disappearance of the investigation team, the WNUF Halloween special was buried never to be seen or rebroadcast again. That is until now.
Please be aware, this is a spoiler heavy review! We try our hardest to avoid spoilers with our reviews but sometimes it is difficult and in the case of "WNUF: Halloween Special" I had to give away the entire movie in order to talk about my issues with it. I would strongly recommend avoiding this review if you do not want it ruined for you as I end up spoiling not only certain details but the ending as well.
"WNUF: Halloween Special" is the latest project from no-budget filmmaker Chris LaMartina. The project was, for awhile, being touted as a "lost" Halloween special hosted by a local channel from the '80s. Chris and his crew even went so far as to slowly seep copies of the movie into the public by randomly leaving tapes of "WNUF: Halloween Special" for people to find. And this gimmick was carried on for awhile when the movie was getting ready to be officially released by Alternative Cinema and Camp Motion Pictures. All good things must come to an end and it was eventually acknowledged as being a modern production. So what is "WNUF: Halloween Special" about?
The lost tape contains a Halloween special presented by local cable access channel WNUF (complete with commercials and all). To celebrate the season, the channel's news station sends a reporter out to investigate a local haunted house with two famous paranormal investigators and a priest. In the home, a young man brutally murdered his parents while claiming to be possessed by demons. Now, almost ten years later, WNUF wants to see if any spirits are still in the home.
Off the bat, I will say that I really liked the concept of the lost "WNUF: Halloween Special" and for the most part it is technically well executed. A strange hybrid between found footage and a fake news broadcast. The overall tape carries a vibe that it was something someone had recorded on their home VCR. Complete with the cheesiest commercials that could have only existed in the '80s and bumpers for the WNUF channel. The movie was actually shot on VHS stock and old public domain b-roll footage was used. A genuine effort was put into the project and they certainly did an excellent job making the people and the footage seem like it did come from the '80s.
Perhaps too good of a job. Since the tape contains fake commercials and it builds up towards the investigation, like most news channels do with their bigger stories, the "WNUF: Halloween Special" runs about an hour and a half long. I know that doesn't sound horrible -- it's an average runtime after all -- but what it actually means is that there is a great deal of filler within the movie to take up what space is left from the actual investigation and central plot. And that, I would say, about 2/3 of the movie was filler with the rest being what people are actually watching this for.
Technically, "WNUF: Halloween Special" is well executed in doing what it set out to do: feel like a genuine '80s news broadcast. Entertainment wise, the movie is extraordinarily dull. I have no problem sticking it out for the long haul but when I'm watching more fake commercials in comparison to the "main programming", it is hard for me to maintain any interest or enthusiasm for the movie. With the Halloween special carrying a runtime of a standard feature length movie, it felt far too long. Going no more than hour, I think, would have resulted in a much tighter product.
As per the actual investigation, LaMartina's influence from Geraldo Riveria is definitely felt and it seems like the paranormal investigators were descended from the Warrens. Which made it fun but with all found footage movies you know that something is going to happen during the investigation. That something occurred which made this a "lost" and "infamous" tape. And while I hate to spoil it (I really do) the movie turns from a paranormal investigation to a faux-snuff movie as everyone involved with the news team are attacked by a group of local religious fanatics.
While not a bad twist and not a bad direction to take the movie, I still had a hard time getting into it because it created too many holes in the logic. Putting too much thought into a movie such as this defeats its purpose obviously but it changes the structure so much and raises too many questions. Particularly when it goes from showing the people being murdered to cutting back to a news broadcast that aired a few days later where a news anchor express concern over the mysterious disappearances of the people who went into the house. It's safe to assume the killers used the news equipment to record their ghastly crimes so how do they have a copy of what they did -- assuming the killers are the ones who made this tape -- but not the news station? If no bodies were found, that would mean that about 5-7 bodies (I can't remember how many people were killed) would have had to have been snuck out of the home. A home that was surrounded by other people from the news station and random spectators. Nobody saw anything? The cops didn't find anything?
I can't deny the technical accomplishment by Chris and everyone who was involved with making "WNUF: Halloween Special" as it does look and feel like something from the '80s. There are some moments when the quality of the product seemed too good (The audio sounded too clean and some of the editing did have a digital look. Whether it was or not, I don't know for sure.) but I guess when you're good at making movies and know how to make them, it's hard to drop that skill and make something inferior. And certainly some of the acting wasn't believable -- there is a difference between someone being awkward in front of the camera and someone acting badly -- but even with all that I still find "WNUF: Halloween Special" to be impressive on a technical level. The movie lost me because it runs for far too long for what it is and there is more filler than actual story. Sadly there's nothing that makes it memorable for the amount of time it takes to watch it and overall is just a one pop shot. I don't see any reason why I would go back to it for another viewing at least. I'm sure a lot people will dig it for its retro vibe but it felt like that's all it had to offer and nothing more.