WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

Drinking Game

Do a Shot: for every instance of a fake commercial (drink responsibly)

Take a Drink: every time the male anchor nails a pun.

Do a Shot: if you agree that found footage has rarely been any better.

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Bill Arceneaux (A Toast) –

Halloween is over? For those of you (like me) who received no trick or treaters during this holiday, you are left with an abundance of miscellaneous candy bags and some heartburn to match. It can be very lonely, living in a quiet neighborhood made up of adults who’d rather catch up on their DVR’s than dress up and create a ruckus. This loneliness, I bet, doesn’t pass, but rather stays with you well into the end of the year…

… STILL! It stands that, for others, Halloween lasts longer than one evening, meaning that my late “spooky” 2014 review (of a 2013 flick) for the site still – technically – counts. Count Dracula that is.

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*Sound of a gunshot is suddenly heard, followed by a loud thump*

Much in the vein of Harmony Korine’s brilliant (and rarely matched) Trash Humpers, WNUF Halloween Special takes the found footage thing literally. In the context of a bootleg recording of a local news broadcast from decades past, the movie is, well, a local news broadcast. Two anchors go from segment to segment, commercial to commercial, before introducing a live Geraldo Rivera lite investigation of a haunted house. All the while, VHS tracking issues and fast forwards occur, making this something that is, eerily, alive.

A Toast

I found out about WNUF Halloween Special through a video posted by Red Letter Media. In it, Jay Bauman runs down the overall aesthetic and execution thereof, singing its praises and selecting teaser footage to give us all the right idea of what he’s talking about. Almost as soon as I got paid, I went online and scooped up a DVD (VHS versions are available). I’m not often compelled to just hand over my money having only seen a few seconds of a flick, but I made an exception in this case.

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Regrets? Nah.

The movie isn’t so much a movie as it is an execution of a concept. This isn’t to say that the film isn’t a film or is somehow less than what is expected from cinema. Quite the contrary. WNUF exists as a sort of melding of subgenre, subculture and nostalgia; found footage, tape trading and the 1980s / local TV. It’s almost more of an art piece, actually – probably saying more about the director than it does about its story. Very fascinating.

It’s really amazing how this works as a story told on two levels. The first one is what is seen on screen. From the sarcastic live broadcaster to the ever happy and pun landing anchors to the mock commercials playing in between oddly contrasted news segments, the movie nails the awkwardness of live local TV, the surprisingly unintentional comedy of the earnest personalities, and the tedium of watching such a thing in full. The second level is what is being selected for us to see. This is a later generation bootleg VHS tape, meaning that the footage has gone through many VCRs and exchanged passed many hands. These unseen hands control the fast forward and rewind buttons, picking moments they determine to be of no value, regardless how the audience may feel. When play is hit, moments before and after the time shift connect in funny and even scary ways.

The all-powerful narrator has the VCR remote, folks. And just as the tape is going through the machine, so it is through his mind, starting and stopping at will. Too bad The Blair Witch Project wasn’t in the context of a madman editor.

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(photo unrelated to previous sentence)

Verdict

Whatever high marks you may come across online about this film are written rightfully so. Not all found footage has to be lazy or cliché – there are still many tricks up this genre’s sleeve.

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For more from the author, follow him on twitter @billreviews and check out his blog Bill.Reviews.

About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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