Dir(s). Chris LaMartina, James Branscome, and Shawn Jones (2013)
Prior to watching WNUF Halloween Special last year around this time, I had heard quite a bit of praise for it. I had also heard how difficult it was to obtain a copy of the film outside of the con circuit, which clearly helped it garner a cult following. And by the time I watched it last year on Shudder, I was ready for the experience. And let it be known that this movie is an exercise in aesthetics, VHS and community cable aesthetics to be specific, and it succeeds because of the amount of detail paid in its production. For those who do not remember the 80’s and its tendency towards hyperbole in its local productions, it was a sight to behold. Oftentimes national affiliate channels in Chicago or New York would produce themed shows for different holidays, and then show movies in between the original programming. Then, they would also have live events, either in-studio or on location. Which brings us to how WNUF starts out, as a live on-location special for a local New York (assumedly fictional) affiliate.
The details are what make this movie. The interstitial commercials that were individually produced and curated specifically for the movie really tie, literally and figuratively, the appeal and feel of the movie. The production was filmed and then reproduced multiple times to give the worn VHS feel and look, capping off the aesthetics over indulgence. And the affiliate channel’s cheesy Halloween banter between the hosts is on target, as is the put upon field host’s frustration with the live event. The story itself is often goofy, but the details of banter and interactions makes it work, as does the staging of the events. It’s a traditional haunted house event with the hopes of finding something supernatural, and it does show something nefarious taking place. This is a rare success of aesthetics building up the effects of the storytelling.