Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Mini-Reviews: WNUF Halloween Special and Ghostwatch

Both of these films have similar themes and execution perfect for the Halloween season.

* WNUF Halloween Special

* spoilers *

The WNUF Halloween Special replicates what it was like to tape shows off TV in the 80's. There aren't any beginning or ending credits. The aspect ratio is that of an older TV. Tracking and static are all over the place. The commercials are the high energy, colorful monstrosities. One series of commercials shows a escalating Senate smear campaign between  The news program is full of transitional puns, over the top banter, and cutesy local stories. One of the stories is pretty serious as a soldier with PTSD shot and killed a trick or treater a year ago. All of it was created in 2013. The way the 80's is perfectly captured amazed me. It was like stepping into my childhood.

The special itself involves a reporter from WNUF going to a supposedly haunted house along with his camera crew (actually filming live) and a "psychic" couple similar to the Warren's with their helpful kitty Shadow. A crowd surrounds the front of the house in costume, hoping to see something creepy. The house was the place of a gruesome murder by a disturbed boy years ago. Mysterious things happen in the house including unexplained sounds, a smashed EVP recorder, and the poor kitty being killed. The story takes quite a turn from being Halloween fun to an actual threat emerging in the house, revealing the manufactured parts of the broadcast in the process.

I absolutely love the ending. Throughout the movie, signs of the bullshit Satanic panic in calls and protests from Christian extremists called HARVEST, stating that Halloween is evil and people who celebrate it will go to hell. I was afraid that it would end in some sort of Satanic ritual, but the filmmakers turn it around. Those same Christians the ones who brutally murder everyone in the house. It's a way to acknowledge that the Satanic panic was a huge travesty that had no truth to it at all. So many innocent people were blamed for awful things because of the music they listened to or the way they dressed or just because of general hysteria. The ending is perfect and I will watch this movie every Halloween.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

* Ghostwatch

* spoilers *

Ghostwatch is a BBC news broadcast trying to find out if ghosts are real. A news crew headed by Sarah Greene visits a family claimed to be terrorized by a ghosts including objects moving, strange sounds, temperature changes, disembodied voices, and unexplained scratches on one of the daughters. The story is clearly inspired from the Enfield haunting as both stories share many of the same details. This family is in dire straits and you can't help but feel for this single mom and her two daughters. The apparition is seen several times during the broadcast. lurking along the edges. I personally didn't see many of them since I watched it on a pretty small screen. The sordid history of the house is revealed throughout the special and two sinister figures emerge as antagonists.

Inside the studio, Michael Parkinson interviews Doctor Pascoe about the supernatural and explanations of the events going on at the house. They also take calls from the public to share their brushes with ghosts and the unexplained. The ending, like WNUF Halloween Special, is pretty bleak with the apparition seemingly escaping to the outside world in the viewers' homes and possessing the Michael Parkinson. It's amazing that this film was shown as if it were a live show with familiar faces of British news and children's TV. This method gives the public the most pause in believing the broadcast because these are the faces of people they see on TV every day. The public wasn't happy about being lied to plus some extreme cases ended in death or PTSD.

Filmed in 1992, this pre-dates found footage and ghost hunter style TV and establishes tropes that will become popular in both genres. I enjoyed the film especially how it starts as poking fun at the notion that the supernatural exists and ending with an outlandish notion of a country wide seance allowing the malevolent spirits into the outside world. It was only every aired once, but I'm surprised I never heard of it before. Ghostwatch is a bit like a modern day War of the Worlds and a film that warrants rewatching numerous times.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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