In another Sweet Streams column a couple weeks back, I discussed the two types of VHS nostalgia: an affinity for the format, and an affinity for the VHS content itself. WNUF Halloween Special is both. It’s a fake found footage film masquerading as a recorded episode of a local news broadcast that went horribly wrong. The concept is a little gimmicky at first, but its commitment to every facet of the facade is remarkable and impressive.
Even though we’re watching this film, its immediately apparent there’s someone else watching it with us, or for us, as the video/film is occasionally fast forwarded by someone else’s hand, to move along the plot and to remind us we’re watching something on a VHS player. But the movie goes as follows: the tape is a recorded episode of channel WNUF’s 1987 Halloween episode, an infamous episode where television reporter Frank Stewart investigates on live TV the notorious Webber House where a teenage boy named Donald Webber murdered his parents twenty years earlier because he claimed the spirits from an Ouija board told him to. Seeing as how the Webber House has a reputation for being haunted, Stewart enlists paranormal couple Louis and Claire Berger and their cat, Shadow, and a priest to investigate what evil spirits or ghosts lurk about.
The dedication to making it seem like an authentic ’80s broadcast is amazing. Director Chris LaMartina included fake local commercials to fill in commercial breaks and the low-fi quality of the tape is damn near realistic to actual old VHS tapes. Even the WNUF news anchors seem to have some cheesy, old midwestern charm. Admittedly, the film could be a little more spookier, and the fact that its a television broadcast means frequent commercial breaks interrupt a lot of the drama going on with the investigation, but I imagine that’s on purpose. Not a lot of jump scares to be had, or gore, but the film’s entire premise really pays off in the last five or so minutes— all I can say is that it really wasn’t what I or anyone expect.
I wouldn’t know how else to describe this besides a cheesy ’80s video meets The Blair Witch Project, but it’s a good fit for the Halloween season for sure. And if you’re especially a fan of ’80s VHS homages, there’s a lot of pleasure and enjoyment to be hand in the excellently-made fake commercials. You can rent this for a day on Amazon or buy it on DVD, too.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers the Orange County DIY music scene, film, arts, Latino culture and currently pens the long-running column Trendzilla. Born, raised, and based in Santa Ana, she loves bad movies, punk shows, raising her plants, eating tacos, Selena, and puns.