• WNUF Halloween Special (Terror Vision) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Terror Vision
    Released on: September 28th, 2021.
    Director: Chris LaMartina
    Cast: Paul Fahrenkopf, Aaron Henkin, Nicolette le Faye, Leanna Chamish, Robert Long, Helenmary Ball, Brian St. August
    Year: 2013
    Purchase From Amazon

    WNUF Halloween Special – Movie Review:

    Directed by Chris LaMartina, who also edited, co-wrote, co-produced and shot the feature, 2013's The WNUF Halloween Special is definitely one of the more convincing and entertaining found footage horror pictures to come out of the last decade. It's also one of the more original entries in that often bastardized sub-genre of horrordom.

    For those yet to see it, the setup is this – it’s October 31st, 1987 and anchors Gavin Gordon (Richard Cutting) and Deborah Merritt (Leanna Chamish) are hosting the evening new broadcast, going over stories such as a dentist who will go to extreme lengths to get kids to give up their candy to some religious zealots out protesting Halloween and its Satanic origins. All of this is a precursor to the Halloween special being broadcast live, wherein an intrepid reporter named Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf) and his camera crew will be going inside the Webber House, an old house rumored to be haunted which was the sight of a murder two decades prior. Accompanying Frank are the husband and wife ghost hunting team of Dr. Louis (Brian St. August) and Claire Berger (Helenmary Ball), their cat Shadow, and a Catholic priest trained the art of exorcism named Father Matheson (Robert Long II). Outside the house, Frank’s producer, Veronica Stanze (Nicolette le Faye), waits surrounded by onlookers.

    And of course, shortly after heading inside, things very quickly take a turn for the worse.

    Made, very convincingly, to look like it was sourced from a worn out, old VHS tape of an actual TV broadcast complete with a bunch of commercials (many of which are fast forwarded through), The WNUF Halloween Special uses the found footage concept pretty effectively and, just as importantly, also does a great job of capturing the look and feel of a late eighties TV broadcast. The commercials (some of which were directed not by LaMartina but by James Branscome, Shawn Jones, Scott Maccubbin, Lonnie Martin, Matthew Menter and Andy Schoeb) feel very authentic and cover everything from political ads to gun ranges to carpet stores to pumpkin carving sets and everything in between. It might sound odd to say it, but the commercials really do play an important part in making the production feel as real as it does.

    The film wears its low budget on its sleeve (and offers verbal nods to SOV godfathers like J.R. Bookwalter, Eric Stanze and The Polonia Brothers) but LaMartina is savvy enough behind the camera to get away with working with modest funds. There isn’t much in the way of effects work here, the focus is on the characters and location, and on that level, the movie works just fine. Thankfully, LaMartina was lucky enough to get a great cast together for the production. Cutting and Chamish really do come across completely believably as news anchors and Paul Fahrenkopf is perfect as Frank Stewart, sometimes almost shockingly so. St. August and Ball are good as their characters, essentially playing The Warrens, and Nicolette le Faye just fine as the producer. Long isn't quite as believable as the priest, but without spoiling it, there's a reason for that and by the time it's over with, his performance makes total sense and turns out to be quite well played.

    WNUF Halloween Special – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings the WNUF Halloween Special to region A Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.33.1 with the feature taking up 19.4GBs of space on the 25GB disc. The transfer reproduces the film as it should look, which is like a worn out VHS tape complete with noise and tracking lines. This isn’t a massive improvement over the DVD release, because again, it’s supposed to look bad, but compression is definitely better and colors look a little nicer. The disc is well-authored and the Blu-ray provides a convincingly low-fi viewing experience.

    The 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, in the film’s native English, comes with optional English subtitles. Again, the quality has been intentionally degraded here to reproduce the effect of watching an old analogue source. As such, the audio is fine. Dialogue is always clear when it’s supposed to be and the levels are balanced well. Any hiss or distortion that makes its way into the mix is there on purpose.

    As far as extra features go, the original audio commentary with Director Chris LaMartina flying solo that appeared on the original DVD release has been carried over to this Blu-ray upgrade, but we also get a new 2021 group commentary with LaMartina , co-writer/co-producer Jimmy George and cast members Helenmary Ball, Robert Long and Brian St. August. It’s a lively talk with a lot of good information inside, covering getting the film made on a super low budget, how everyone more various different hats during the production to get things moving, calling in favors from friends and family on a pretty regular basis, securing the locations, building props, working with a live cat, creating the different characters and personalities that pop up in the movie, what went into the planning and pre-production processes, writing the actual script and lots more. It’s pretty interesting stuff and definitely worth a listen.

    Most of the other extras are ported over from the aforementioned DVD, starting with seven minutes of Cutting Room Commercials. This is pretty much just what it sounds like – more of the fake commercials that are used throughout the movie. Although these ones obviously didn’t wind up being used in the movie itself, they’re still pretty fun to see.

    The four minute Rewinding the Fast Forward Segments featurette is a closer look at some of the material that we see used in the feature that is shown being fast forwarded. Some of this material is pretty clever and, again, it’s nice to see it here.

    The Outtakes And Bloopers section is just that, eight minutes of flubs and slip ups captured during the shoot, while Shitty On Purpose: How We Aged WNUF is a quick one minute piece that shows how the footage was intentionally degraded after it was shot to make it look like an authentic analogue tape source. The WNUF Christmas Special is a quick, one minuet promo for another holiday special hosted by the channel.

    The other new extra on this release, aside from that commentary track is a selection of ‘Long Lost WNUF Commercials Rediscovered For 2021 Release.’ In here is a collection of six minutes of yet more fake commercials, and once again, they’re pretty fun to watch and often quite humorous.

    The movie’s original trailer, menus and chapter selection options finish up the extras on the disc.

    WNUF Halloween Special – The Final Word:

    WNUF Halloween Special is as fun and entertaining as it is unique and creative. While the audio and video presentation on this release is only ever going to look so good, Terror Vision does give fans of the film a nice upgrade here and they throw in a couple of new extras as well, highlighted by a really strong group commentary track. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full-sized WNUF Halloween Special screen caps!