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Film Review: WNUF Halloween Special

Perfectly authentic, right down to painstakingly “aged” VCR footage.

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WNUF’s News Anchors


WNUF Halloween Special

Directed by Chris LaMartina

Special Edition DVD out Oct. 22

It is endlessly inventive shoestring DIY projects like this—and people like director Chris LaMartina—that make Baltimore’s arts community the creative wellspring that it is.

On a budget that LaMartina estimates was about $1,000 in the WNUF Halloween Special DVD’s director’s commentary, the auteur imagined a 1987 TV Halloween special. (The network, WNUF, is only a letter off from WNUV, Baltimore’s channel 54, once the home to schlocky shows like this.) It riffs on cheesy horror films like Fright Night, the ’80s scare over Satanic influence on teens, and especially on local TV tropes and personalities. Integrating spot-on period graphics, found footage from the era, and recreated commercials for everything from video arcades to 1-900 numbers, the look here is perfectly authentic, right down to painstakingly “aged” VCR footage.

The star is hammy news correspondent Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf)—think Rob Roblin meets Marty Bass, but meaner—who vows to enter the infamous Webber house, which has been shuttered for years since a teenager, possibly under the influence of demons, murdered his parents there. If you were high enough, Stewart and the supporting cast, including a husband-wife-and-cat team of paranormal experts, a fake priest, equally hammy news anchors, and one stiff producer, might just convince you that this Halloween special really did air.

The film appeared theatrically at the Creative Alliance on Oct. 18 but should really be enjoyed with the wealth of extras that comes with the special edition DVD, out Oct. 22, and feted with a release party at Atomic Books a week later. Of particular interest is the director’s commentary, in which LaMartina talks frenetically, often hilariously, through the film, trying to fit in all his ideas about found-footage films, comedy-horror influences, the great days of locally produced TV specials, all of the people who helped him make the movie, people who owe him money from previous projects, etc. His vision and passion come through in torrents, underlining that he is the kind of person that pumps the pistons of Baltimore’s arts community.

Also worthwhile among the special features are details about how the new video footage was aged by running it through multiple VCRs and where exactly the filmmakers found all the amazing, era-specific footage used to piece together the commercials. And don’t miss the de rigueur gag reel, which, in this case, offers a glimpse into the tight cast and crew of friends and helpers who came together, presumably without hope of much remuneration, to create such a hilarious, pitch-perfect product.

The WNUF Halloween Special DVD-Release party will be held at Atomic Books on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

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