Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In short: WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

Welcome to a very special night of regional TV, recorded on grubby VHS tape some time in the 80s. After a mix of pretty brilliant fake commercials and news bits, the tape gets to the meat of the proceedings: a Halloween special reportage that sees WNUF’s intrepid reporter Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf) visit a supposedly haunted house where once some ouija board related murders took place. Frank is accompanied by famous parapsychological research husband and wife team Dr. Louis (Brian St. August) and Claire (Helenmary Ball) Berger, their mediumistic cat Shadow and Catholic exorcist Father Matheson (Robert Long II). Of course, really weird things begin to happen.

Mainly directed by Chris LaMartina, this is a pretty wondrous fake time capsule that apparently mimics the style of TV it portrays incredibly well – while adding jokes to it. Having grown up and living in Germany, I don’t really know how this kind of 80s regional US TV is supposed to look, but I can say that the film’s presentation does feel just right to me, so it’s certainly convincing to somebody who does not have any nostalgia for the sort of thing it portrays and lovingly sends up. In any case, the film feels like a pretty joyful project, clearly made with a lot of love and an eye for detail, starting with the fake commercials that are often as funny as they are straight-faced, and the news bits, and not beginning to slouch when it comes to the the misadventures in the haunted (or is it?) house which of course do not end well.

Well, the main special could probably have gone with a little less authenticity in form of fewer commercial breaks, but otherwise, WNUF Halloween Special is fun from beginning to end with acting performances that are cheesy in what feels just the right way and full of exactly the type of straight-faced humour that won’t destroy the feeling of really watching an old VHS tape of TV going quite a bit wrong while still being funny.

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