WNUF Halloween Special
A horror comedy with fake news and commercials section, that was filmed on old video cameras to make it look like a real VHS recording of a commercial television station's Halloween special from 1987.
We are over three weeks into our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature and today we are taking a look at something rather unique – Chris Lamartina’s WNUF Halloween Special from 2013. Certainly one of the strangest movies on this list, WNUF Halloween Special is a fascinating love letter to the 1980s and the age of the VHS. Presented as a news show featuring a segment where a reporter investigates a supposedly haunted house on Halloween.
WNUF Halloween Special is designed to appear as if it was recorded off of a local TV station. Local public service announcements and 80’s style advertisements play throughout offering a sense of authenticity. While being far from a traditional horror it is bloody excellent. With that being said, let’s take a look. As always I’ll offer a quick breakdown of the movie. This one will be really short as there isn’t a huge amount to say.
We have been reviewing a horror movie a day for the entirety of October 2022 leading up to Halloween. I intended these reviews to be a bit of a shorter format but it kind of didn’t work out that way. Still, we have plenty left with a few days of October remaining so keep checking back. We are featuring a range of movies from horror classics to international hits and a few indie darlings. You can check out the entire K-O-Ween feature by clicking right here.
WNUF Halloween Special – Synopsis
WNUF Halloween Special kicks off with a news show featuring two presenters decked out in Halloween costumes. Reminiscent of a regional news broadcast, there are local interest story segments as well as safety tips for Halloween. The presenters inform us that one of their colleagues, Frank Stewart played by Paul Fahrenkopf, will be investigating the abandoned Webber house which was the scene of a brutal murder. The Webber son apparently summoned demons when playing around with a Quija board and they ordered him to kill his family. He did so and, ever since, the house has, apparently, been haunted.
During the broadcast, there are cutaways to commercials for local businesses and further news segments before occasionally returning to Frank at the Webber house. Frank is being accompanied into the house by special guests Dr Louis Berger, his wife Claire Berger, and their cat Shadow, played by Brian St. August and Helenmary Ball respectively. The Bergers are a couple that believe they have the ability to communicate with spirits. Shadow also has a sensitivity to the paranormal and Clair Berger refuses to do any job without him Also joining him is a cameraman and a priest who is apparently well versed in Catholic Exorcism rites.
Frank, after chatting with the crowd and the Bergers announces his intention to go into the house. Within minutes of entering, Shadow runs off upstairs. The group attempt to find him but are unable to. It isn’t long before the Bergers begin to feel uncomfortable. Strange sounds are heard and unexplainable events occur. Frank tries to keep a cool head but it becomes very apparent that something is wrong.
Is It a Horror Movie?
It probably makes sense to kick off the review asking this question. WNUF Halloween Special is a story contained within a news variety show style presentation. It is barely even a movie to be honest. The meat of the story and the part that can most be described as horror is probably only about 15-20 minutes long. The rest of the movie is a mix of 80’s style commercials, public announcements, television listings, weather reports and news style chatter.
It’s an interesting concept but almost certainly not for everyone. Many will likely wonder what they just watched and some will just switch off immediately. There aren’t many scares here and the comical nature of the presentation does not lend itself to unsettling the viewer. It would be difficult to class WNUF as a horror movie. It is more of a horror experience and an incredibly entertaining one at that.
In a world of horror movies, WNUF Halloween Special is incredibly unique. I really can’t think of anything too similar. The BBC production of GhostWatch from 1992 was a potential inspiration for this but they are still distinctly different. I remember watching Ghost Watch live and being thoroughly convinced that it was real. WNUF aims to capture that exact spirit.
The use of commercials and local television listings spliced in with the news footage is brilliant. It has to be said, it’s a daring move. As mentioned above, WNUF runs the risk of appealing to a very small group of people. The movie is so committed to its vision. It sets out to be something completely different and never lets up for a second. WNUF is not at all like a standard horror movie and doesn’t fit the bill when looking for something to scare you. It could almost be classed as an experiment in film making; it’s a nostalgic trip back to a seemingly simpler time. It shouldn’t really work but it absolutely does.
I think it is fair to say that WNUF deserves cult status and will likely attain it over time. Aside from the fact that it is a really good movie for any fans of the 80s or just horror in general, it is incredibly unique. There is very little like this. The closest you really get are things like V/H/S and other horror anthologies. Even they don’t come close to just how strange it is. It’s fantastic and like nothing else.
A Flashback to the 80s
The 80s are very in at the moment when it comes to horror. Stranger Things and the movie version of Stephen King’s It, among other releases, have people yearning for the days of big hair, big guitar solos and even bigger mobile phones. If you are a child of the 80s then you are either loving it or are completely confused as to what the fuss is about.
I was born in the 80s but spent the majority of my childhood in the 90s so consider myself more of a 90’s kid. I still remember a fair whack of the TV from that era and my partner and I are, for some strange reason, obsessed with watching old commercials from the 80s. With this in mind, WNUF Halloween Special is pretty much tailormade for us.
Recorded on VHS tapes and then copied several times to recreate the feeling of an old worn out VHS cassette, WNUF Halloween Special is incredibly authentic. Older cameras were used to film the commercials and news segments. The movie was filmed in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and everything looks pretty old and a bit crappy. Nothing here feels prosthetic. You never once get the impression that filters are being used to give an aged look to the movie. If you have used an old VHS before then you know exactly how the recording will look. WNUF captures this perfectly.
As mentioned above, my partner and I love watching 80’s American commercials. I don’t know what it is about them, they are just so cheesy and hilarious. WNUF is littered with 80’s style commercials and I can tell you from experience that they absolutely nail them. They are so authentic and capture the perfect look and feel of commercials from that era.
Obviously this must have taken a significant amount of work. Recording one commercial is likely time consuming enough so filming a whole bunch to fill over an hour of television style content is a huge undertaking. It has obviously been a labour of love for the many directors who worked on WNUF. The range of commercials is impressive in itself. There are commercials for television shows, safety warnings for Halloween, adverts aimed at prospective voters, and so many more.
Having watched so many 80’s commercials, I instantly recognised a couple of ads. A few are basically one to one copies of ads that actually ran at Halloween back then. There is an ad for a pumpkin carving kit that is almost word for word. There is another ad for face paint that uses some very specific phrasing that was used on a particular advert from back then. I am not sure whether these nods are deliberate or just a bit lazy. Chris Lemartina said he wanted to recapture the style and what better way to do it than by ripping it off completely? It doesn’t detract from just how perfectly done WNUF is, however, and is just something I noticed.
Hilarious but Not Scary
WNUF Halloween Special has a humour that really nails the cheesiness of the shows of the time. The awkward chemistry between news and talk show presenters is perfectly captured. The terrible jokes and slight disdain the presenters seem to have for each other is like holding a mirror up to shows of the era.
The commercials are hilarious and expertly parody the bizarre methods used to promote products in the 80s and 90s.. Frank Stewart’s sarcasm and disinterest with the job he is doing only adds to the humour and we have all seen television presenters like this. The lack of glamour is a really nice touch that is sure to remind everyone of their own local news shows. Everything looks so cheap and the presenters smiles are so fake. It is perfectly done and absolutely hilarious.
One thing that WNUF is not, however, is scary. It’s barely a horror movie at all, as I mentioned earlier. The story at the Webber house is the only horror element actually present here and, despite a slight twist and a bit of gore, it isn’t at all scary. It is worth me mentioning that it isn’t trying to be scary. WNUF is very clear in what it is and never tries to be an all out horror movie.
A Strange Recommendation
It feels so strange to recommend a movie like this. The WNUF Halloween Special really isn’t something you would sit down with a group of friends on a random night and watch. It doesn’t fit the mould of traditional horror and is, frankly, a bit odd. The people who love this film are going to be the people who know what they are getting into and expect something a bit different. Everyone else will either be pleasantly surprised or just plain disappointed.
I think WNUF is best described as a Halloween movie and not as a horror. It is the perfect movie to throw on as a starter to a night of horror movie binging on Halloween. The Halloween themed commercials and the themed news presentation will get you in the mood for enjoying some proper horror. It is absolutely perfect for this and I can’t think of many movies that could fill that niche so well. It is the perfect Halloween movie and the only reason I didn’t have it for October the 31st is that I believe the Halloween review spot in our K-O-Ween feature deserves to go to an absolute classic.
Is it a Knockout?
WNUF Halloween Special is a horror movie like no other. Produced to look like a news broadcast from 1987 complete with commercials and television show promotions, WNUF is a perfect reimagining of local cable shows of the time. While not particularly scary, a commitment to laughs and authenticity pay off in a huge way.
Clearly a labour of love for the creators, WNUF's commercials feel like they have been ripped right out of the 80s. Well acted and fun throughout, the lengths the filmmakers have gone to to capture the feel of a worn out old VHS are truly impressive. Some people will likely be put off by the presentation of the movie and it is very difficult to class it as a horror. The scares are pretty much non-existent and the format is different to all other horror movies. What it is, however, is the perfect Halloween movie. Put it on at the start of your Halloween celebrations, kick back and enjoy. It is fantastic fun.