Sunday, August 13, 2017

WNUF Halloween Special - It's 1987 all over again!

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!
In a previous post I indicated I ordinarily don't write about more recent films.  Generally this is because I feel the heavy reliance on digital technology has drained many motion pictures of their creativity and/or humanity. Although I'm not a lone voice in this regard, it is not an opinion commonly held by lovers of genre films. Of course I have written about a handful of newer releases like The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, Plan 9 and Gila! However, the reason I wanted to write about them and enjoyed those films is they hearken to the pre-digital age and offer an homage to the films of a more creative era.  I'm sure that is a suggestion that will engender dissonance from the younger generation - I'm reminded by people varying in age from 20 to 35 I'm usually wrong about everything (I remember being young and assuming older people were idiots...I'm mean what could they possibly know right?)

In any event, the subject of today's article is one of those amazing pictures that remind us (or people my age I guess) of a different time - a film called WNUF Halloween Special.  Purporting to be a tape of a live 1987 Halloween broadcast from WNUF television (somewhere in the Baltimore area based on the cast including the always amazing George Stover!) this is one of the most entertaining "found footage" films I've ever seen.  I use quotes around the term found footage because the film is supposed to be a video tape of the live broadcast and since the events were broadcast live I don't think "found" footage applies entirely.

This 2013 film with a host of writers and directors (because of the multiple segments and as well as the fake but brilliant commercials) is one of the best examples of a horror comedy I have seen in some time. The commercial breaks are both brilliantly hilarious and telling at the same time.  Commercials for video stores and arcades remind us of the sea change that took place in a single generation.  The news anchors and the commercials are vivid reminders of the days of the independent television station.

I recall watching KPLR 11 out of St. Louis and KBSI 23 in my hometown.  These stations were treasure troves. Where else could you watch the Lone Ranger before heading off to school and come home to My Favorite Martian and Dobie Gillis in the afternoon?  I think it was the variety of older shows from Gilligan's Island to The Dick Van Dyke show (not to mention the old movies) that allowed me a glimpse into the way my parents generation (and even my grandparents) saw the world.  My kids have never seen an old television show - they live entirely unaware of The A-Team, Cheers or Magnum PI...maybe that explains the gulf in being able to relate to one another (just a thought...I'm sure a 24 year old would tell me I'm full of shit).

Also in the late 80s was the USA Channel which felt like a nationwide independent TV station with great shows like Commander USA's Groovie Movies!  I do so miss the days when Disney didn't own every broadcast network.  Odd to think that "Ma" Bell had to be broken up in the 80s and yet we've let a small handful of conglomerates take over virtually every network of the 500 available on your average satellite - easier to spoon feed us our opinions that way I suppose.

The film opens with a news broadcast hosted by anchors Gavin Gordon (Richard Cutting) and Deborah Merritt (Leanna Chamish) in their full Halloween regalia and reminding us to stay tuned for the live broadcast from the ostensibly haunted Webber house, where 20 years prior a young man decapitated his parents.  This opening sequence is absolutely brilliant - the different reporter segments on how to stay safe during Halloween and the interview with the leader of H.A.R.V.E.S.T named Angela Harries (Kendra North) - a Christian anti-Halloween group that has as one of its believes that Goblins pray over the candy given to children to steal their souls.
Clearly meant to invoke the Westboro Baptist church, the group reminds me of some "true believers" I knew back home who tried to "save me" by explaining that Satan put the dinosaur bones on Earth to trick us into believing in evolution because the Earth is only 5000 + years old (I kid you not - they're out there!)

Eventually we get to the live broadcast where reporter Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf) is outside preparing to enter the house with the assistance of Dr. Louis Berger (Brian St. August) and his wife Claire Berger (Helenmary Ball) as well as their cat, doing a hilarious parody of Ed and Loraine Warren.  Also with them is Father Joseph Matheson (Robert Long II) in the event an Exorcism is required.

Once in the house, the film begins to take a much darker tone as a series of frightening events begin to play out on live television.  The end of the film is creepy and somber but well done and spot on!  My posts are spoiler free so I won't give any details.

I spend huge chunks of my free time tracking down obscure films - only this film is not really that obscure.  It has a large fan base and there are a number of reviews online in both blogs and YouTube videos.  Somehow I simply let this film fly under my radar.  I watched it on Shudder (via Amazon) but I have to imagine it is available on other streaming sites as well - although I really need to track this down on video tape I think to get the full experience.

In closing I do have one single complaint about the film - and you'll understand why I mean when you watch it.  A cameraman named Connor really needed to see a good Ear, Nose and Throat doctor...his nose issue was distracting from the film!  But track down WNUF Halloween Special and enjoy 1987 (all over again if you're my age!)

Miss you Pops