31 in 31 – “WNUF Halloween Special”

“I’m Frank Stewart, we’ll be right back. Okay, all right! All right, relax! Come on!”

Story: Halloween 1987. Local news reporter Frank Stewart hosts a Halloween special at the Weber house – and it’s the first time in 20 years anyone’s been inside. Stewart invites paranormal researchers Louis and Claire Berger and their ESP cat (sure) Shadow, along with a priest there to amp up the audience. But in-between commercials and call-ins from viewers, it seems that this may be much spookier than anyone at WNUF intended.

Scares: None, unless you’re a very light touch.

Splat factor: Some light blood, and a peek at what happened to poor Shadow. (What? I always want to know what happens to the pet. You’re welcome.)

Closing scene “shocker”?: Nope.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Based on the real life fun Halloween specials local TV channels used to do back in the 80s, and harks back to my favorite Tales From the Crypt episode, “Television Terror”, starring the late great Morton Downey Jr.

Trick or Treat?: A fun watch for anyone looking to start their Halloween movie marathon out with a gnarly story. Tubular, dude! WNUF is way retro – for a 2013 film, it looks like the stuff I’d see on local channels in the 80s. Well done “local ads” and “TV movie” teasers have that wonderful blend of earnestness and low budget awesomeness, and damn the art direction nails the 80s. I’m having flashbacks big time.

As for the story itself, it’s like you’re watching a recording of the channel, timed to start recording just a bit before (and ending just a bit after) the show to avoid missing anything. It’s a great way to play out the story, and the grainy filters only heighten the sense of old-timey VHS tape. The film sometimes “fast forwards” through some ads and news reruns, giving viewers enough info on the subject then moving on, as if you’re really zipping past the snoozy bits.

It’s obvious that the makers of this film have big love for the 80s, and the cheesy specials that came from the era. Everyone seems all-in, from the ads to the actual “special”. Actor Paul Fahrenkopf in particular delivers a cheeky performance as reporter Frank Stewart; the smugness and  hyperinflated ego comes through as the “too good for this stuff” reporter soldiers on no matter what’s going on around him. Fahrenkopf is great here, and really sold the local news vibe.

The ending? Well, the ending ain’t Crypt, but after about an hour and a half of spooky 80s goodness, I’m not complaining. Much. It’s a sudden shift that’s more sudden ending than climax to a story, and the why of it all isn’t truly set up. Rather, it’s more of a watering down of the night’s occurrences. Pity, but since I enjoyed the rest of the film (except for poor Shadow, RIP), I’ll wish for something different but won’t be too upset with what we’re given.

Watch this one on a small TV to get the maximum retro goodness.

Score: 3.5 out of 5 pumpkins.

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
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