Just over two months ago, I reviewed the indie horror-comedy, Call Girl of Cthulhu, directed by Chris LaMartina and co-written with Jimmy George. I did not pull any punches, and I was, quite plainly, amazed with how much that movie did not sit with me. The review caught the attention of LaMartina, who kindly shared with me his previous film, WNUF Halloween Special (2013), suggesting that it might be more up my alley. To my delight, he was spot on.
WNUF Halloween Special styles itself as a late ’80s news station’s Halloween special. I was amazed to learn that it was made less than two years ago; often, I found myself unconsciously moving my mouse to skip forward when the commercials started, only to remember that they’re a part of the film. I think this reflects the one positive quality I noted in Call Girl of Cthulhu, which is that LaMartina had some really solid camerawork given the budgetary constraints. After watching WNUF, I would conjecture that LaMartina has an eye for style and how to use a budget and camera to capture that. I didn’t grow up in the 80s, but nearly every detail of WNUF—besides occasional moments of overly self-aware commercials—reminded me of my hometown’s local news channel. The cheesy news anchors, the cranky field reporter, the bizarre local commercials: everything works together to achieve stylistic mimesis, without which the entire movie would have fallen flat.
And perhaps the style is what differentiates this movie from Call Girl of Cthulhu; I find the genre and ambitions in WNUF far more engaging. WNUF is a horror-comedy that takes a clever conceit and builds slowly; you can guess early on that the reporter—who will be investigating a supposedly haunted house—might get more than he bargained for, but because it is returned to so sporadically, the tension builds in a way that a more straightforward horror film would have failed to capture. While the central horror is not an idea that is going to reinvent the genre, the execution is entirely novel and masks any financial or temporal limits of the production.
That being said, WNUF does have issues with pacing, notably in the first twenty to thirty minutes. While I appreciate the slow reveal of the reporter narrative, the commercials become cumbersome, and the film as a whole takes too much time making the jump from a completely mimetic take on a news broadcast to a film with a narrative that holds the audience’s interest. In the second half of the film, however, the pacing finds surer footing, and smartly shifts the focus to the reporter. When that shift does occur, there are moments that induce genuine dread, which is a quality that many big budget horror films fail to capture, no less low budget ones.
WNUF is the type of project that becomes a yearly favorite for Halloweenophiles because it comes from a place of love, and from that love stems creativity and the level of understanding that allows for insightful takes on old ideas. WNUF does have its occasional lulls, and the ending—while effective—is not as bone-chilling as the ending to other mimetic low-budget indie horror flicks like The Blair Witch Project; still, it’s a lot of fun and more than a little clever. While we are not in Octoberween, I suggest adding WNUF to your mental cue for the best month of the year, or checking it out next time you’re in the mood for something goofy to watch with friends.
You can purchase the film at this link, which (full disclosure?) was provided to me by LaMartina.