Posts Tagged ‘found footage

09
Oct
16

The WNUF Halloween Special (1987-2013)

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“This is not some Halloween prank. The grisly evidence of the supernatural is real. – Frank Stewart,  The WNUF Halloween Special

a Primal Root written review

This day and age everything we want is right at our fingers tips. All the information (and misinformation) we need is jut a key stroke and a mouse click away. Movies are on demand, Netflix streams their tiny list of titles right into our living rooms…but not long ago we had to dig. A younger generation will not know of the struggle it once was to locate an obscure title or horror film, a rare bootleg of a strange, grotesque, bizarre television occurrence or to pay exorbitant amounts of cash to purchase a copy of something you’ve heard such tall tales of that your expectations are sky high, only to pop in the VHS tape and realize you’ve totally been had. Sure, it was a kind of dark age of horror cinema geekdom, but for every tape you watched that was absolute dog shit, you would come across some absolute gold. Even some strange, unlabeled tapes from the local thrift store, flea market or Goodwill that left you wondering just what the fuck you witnessed and had your grasping desperately at what was left of your Taco Bell and Mountain Dew fueled teenage sanity.

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However, in 2013 some innovative and intelligent filmmakers decided to try and recreate that exact same vibe with The WNUF Halloween Special, a feature film intended to look and feel like a lost, legendary 1980’s local news Halloween broadcast that went terribly wrong and has become the stuff of Urban Myth. The film begins with the all too familiar bright blue VHS screen we all recall from the era, a white triangle with the word “PLAY” pop up in the top corner as an audible click is heard and we are transported back to a simpler time, a crappier time perhaps, where audio was spotty, video quality was always poor and everything was tacky and damn proud of it. Of course, those living at the time had no idea and it was embraced in all it’s clunkiness.

Our news anchors at WNUF, dressed as a witch and Dracula respectively, are just as cheesy and goofball as you might expect, only going serious face when the story calls for it, like a story about local tragedy where an asian boy dressed as G.I. Joe when to a Vietnam veterans home and was gunned down. It’s a dark chuckle, but a damn good one, none the less. We are also told repeatedly to stay tuned for The WNUF Halloween Special at 7pm, right after the 6 O’Clock News where the ultimate ham and local news anchor, the mustachioed  Frank Stewart, played by the dead pan and hilarious Paul Fahrenkopf, will host a stunning exploration into the supernatural and unexplained phenomenon occurring within the walls of the infamous Webber House,  the site of ghoulish murders. Frank enlists the help of a famed Husband, Wife and Feline psychic team as well as a local Catholic Priest to accompany him on this journey into the horrifying, the macabre and the unknown…

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It’s just as cheesy as it sounds, folks.  But it all works in the movies favor, because for the most part, if you can suspend your disbelief just a little bit, it doesn’t feel staged.  It all feels pretty damn real thank to the very natural, often improvised performances. What also lends a lot of credence to the proceedings are the fantastic fake local commercials that keep interrupting the action after our perilous reporter looks into the camera telling us, “We’ll be back RIGHT AFTER THIS!” There are some truly wonderful ads created for the fictional but very nostalgic local haunts like Tokens arcade and pizza parlor as well as late night horror movie shows to broadcast later in the evening and even political attack ads! It goes a long way to making the whole film feel more like genuine lost relic of a bygone era than your typical found footage genre entry.

Much like The Blair Witch Project over a decade earlier, it began building hype via word of mouth. Once the Halloween Special was completed filmmaker Chris LaMartina started getting the word out by dubbing the film directly to VHS, hand writing labels with Sharpie and dropping it off without anyone noticing at VHS collector conventions for people to stumble upon. I’ve even heard they drove around Baltimore tossing VHS copies of their movie out the car window in the hopes of people picking it up, sliding it not the VCR’s and getting rumors and copies circulating.  I can only imagine how awesome it must have been to be one of the lucky ones who tumbled across one of those original VHS tapes before it became common knowledge that this was all staged and wondering just what you had come across. It must have a been the most wonderful kind of mind fuck.

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Sure, we all know it’s fake now, but I cannot heap enough praise on The WNUF Halloween Special. It has a lot of fun transporting us back the days that folks like us used to look forward to dressing up in costumes, going to Halloween carnivals with our parents and trick or treating around the neighborhood with our friends. The WNUF Halloween Special brings back those feelings of just how special Halloween night was to us as children, sure, it’s still special to us know, but as a child in meant something even more. I for putting so much effort into creating that reality for us, once again, WNUF should be commended.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but by film’s end we see another nightly news broadcast five days after the fact with our original two news anchors discussing with us whether or not what we witnessed on screen during the WNUF Halloween Special was a hoax or not. They mention the disappearance of certain people…then put on their best smiles, forget about that bummer and move on full force into discussing Thanksgiving and Christmas season! Its crasstastic, pitch perfect in it’s dark humor and mocking the attention span of the typical television viewer. But, you know as well as I do, that it’s only one year before Halloween comes round again… The WNUF Halloween Special takes place in 1987…who know what happened in 1988?

I award The WNUF Halloween Special 3 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

19
Apr
15

Unfriended (2014): Grumpy Young Assholes

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a Primal Root written review

Man, the future according to cinema keeps looking bleaker all the time. If it’s not some kind of genetic ape epidemic, Lovecraftian unspeakable evil hostel takeover, or nuclear apocalypse it’s a fucking zombie outbreak that our military forces just can’t contain. I’ve seen these scenarios done many, many times over. Sometimes done well, often done stupidly, but typically on quite a grandiose scale. But, if you ask me, often times the terrible turd of a future the movies keep warning us of is so much more enjoyable when handled…subtly. And what makes all the more frightening is when it’s simply a teen horror film that is trying to present teenage human being as they actually are. And then you just think about the future with these fuckers and realize just how deeply fucked in the pooper we really are.

Enter Unfriended, 2015’s answer to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project and 2007’s Paranormal Activity. It’s your typical horror movie only we, the viewer, are witnessing an evening on the social networks from the perspective of young, pretty high school girl, Val, (Courtney Halverson) who begins, um, sexting (?) her boyfriend, who she professes to love but refuses to fuck, that is, until promising to on prom night. How original. Anyhoo, Laura almost pulls open her flannel shirt to give us a glimpse of her T-Birds, but these kid’s obnoxious buddies choose that moment to start up a, um, Live Chat (?) through the interwebs.

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It turns out tonight is the one year anniversary of their mutual friend Laura’s suicide, which was taped on a cell phone from a distance of about 50 yards as she puts a gun to her face and pulls the trigger.  People can be heard yelling “Don’t do it!” and “Stop!” But we don’t see a single person try to approach her. Thankfully, it is captured for posterity on Youtube for all to revisit whenever they please. It seems  Laura was the victim of some very mean spirited bullying which came to a climax with a nasty video of her getting hammered out of her mind at a party and then passing out… and shitting her pants was uploaded to the web with a nice little credit at the end urging her to kill herself.

Sure, this might sound like loads of laughs to many sociopathic teeny boppers out there these days, but to me, I can’t understand what would prompt people to do this to someone. I can see maybe one person being an utter scumbag to someone, but for what is implied to be an entire student body urging a girl to kill herself after a video of her laying in a pool of her own chunky diarrhea is hard for me to comprehend. I can wrap my mind around the teenage jerks in Carrie, Fear No Evil, even Weird Science and the like, but this new generation of bullying jerks has reached a terrifying new height of scumbaggery where they can hurt and bully someone to the point of killing themselves and then make jokes about it and justify it after on 12 months.

What I’m trying to say is there is no hope for humanity, that is, if Unfriended is to be believed. But, thankfully, there is someone who by all appearances is the ghost of Laura hacking into their Live Chat (?) and killing them all off one by one via the old and moldy drinking game “Never Have I Ever.” Sure, it’s kind of lame, but it is pretty hysterical to watch these self proclaimed “Good People” freak the fuck out as truths are revealed and back stabbings are brought to the surface. Man, if you can;t trust the people responsible for bullying a person into suicide, who can you trust?  It’s an interesting update to the slasher formula. Where once the likes of Freddy and Jason were killing off kids for smoking weed and fucking like bunnies, these kids are getting butchered for totally understandable reasons. In Friday the 13th, these kids weren’t hurting anyone else. But these kids in Unfriended are the most deplorable, detestable fuck bags I’ve seen on screen in years! The victims in the SAW franchise were more savory than these teenage “protagonists.” You will laugh and cheer as their worlds are crushed and then their skulls.

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That being said, there are long patches of this flick where not a whole lot is going on. Val spends a lot of time on various search engines and texting various people. You’ll be straining to read everything that is constantly popping up on the screen, some essential to the plot, some not so much. Also, there isn’t much for you gore hounds out there. It’s all shown in drips and drabs, but in a way, I feel that might have been a bit more effective for the medium they were going for. But for you shit lovers out there, there’s plenty of shots of poo-poo puddles for your enjoyment.

All in all, I went in with a sinking feeling this movie was going to be horrendously bad. To my amazement, it was moderately enjoyable. I rooted for the unseen murderous spirit of vengeance, I laughed out loud more than once at humor both intentional and unintentional. I gotta say, I had an alright time watching this one with Bootsie Kidd. It’s not a good film by ANY stretch of the imagination, but it was a relatively entertaining take on the slasher formula. It did things a little different and by the time the credits rolled had me weeping for humanity itself. Because if the message of Unfriended is to be believed, we’re all… shit out of luck.  But also, within this movie there’s a great moral to be learned. Don’t be a fucking asshole! DON’T BE A FUCKING ASSHOLE! Trust me, you fuck the wrong person over and the next thing you know you’re turning your own hand in salsa for ll your buddies to witness! Also, another important reminder, everything you post, say or do on the internet is bound to come back and haunt you. It’s an interesting new place for evil to dwell and Unfriended hits that new realm a bit closer to the mark than most.

I reward this sucker TWO AND A HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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