Reporter Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf) is about to have a bad night. It’s Halloween, 1987, and he’s on camera hosting the WNUF Halloween Special that is going to investigate the local murder house during a live broadcast.
The film plays like a recorded videotape, has tolls, tracking problems, and plays more to nostalgia of the time than actually anything horrific. We join the WNUF news team for their evening broadcast where we are warned of the perils of trick or treating in the 80s, the need for trusted adults, the dangers of satanic panic, and to check all candy before eating it, stuck amidst local advertisements for farmers’ markets, video stores, shopping malls, and local legal and dentist offices.
And they ring incredibly true, a number of them elicit memories from one’s own past to something similar. The adverts are made with stock footage, and perhaps that lends to their familiarity, and there’s also the unbelievable camaraderie of the on camera news anchors, and reporter Frank who is trying to do the best job he can, but is very much trapped in his town, and his career. He’s bigger than the events around him, and he can’t figure out why people aren’t paying attention to him.
Over the course of the recorded broadcast (and honestly, who recorded the nightly local news programs?), we are given a bit of the history of the local murder house, the use of a ouija board, the crimes committed by the son of the family, and then how he blamed it on the demons that took control of him.
It’s like the film ticks the boxes of all the 80s tropes that people were worried about, and claiming were dangers in the 80s.
Frank enters the house with his crew, a priest (Robert Long II), and a pair of Warren wannabes, Louis (Brian St. August) and Claire Berger (Helenmary Ball), and their psychic cat, and proceeds to jump at shadows, strange sounds, and runs head first into danger all on live television.
Will they survive the night?
Honestly, who cares?
The film itself is silly, inane, and doesn’t really engage on a narrative level, but the idea behind it, the way it is drenched in an almost authentic recreation of the 80s in terms of advertising, broadcast standards and local news and interest programs is a lot of fun.
I like the idea behind it, and a lot of the execution, I just think we needed to focus a little more on the narrative, and perhaps pay a little more attention to that, perhaps cover part of the ‘broadcast’ as a faux documentary. There’s just not enough meat on the bones to sustain even a short film like this. And as fun as some of the ads are, and how faithful they feel to the era, they end up being too much, and take us away from what little story there is.
A cool idea, just not executed as smartly as it could have been, but I did enjoy a lot of it.