Halloween night. 1987.
Paranormal researcher Frank Stewart and his team try to prove an abandoned home is haunted. A local network camera crew is along for the ride, taping the EVP recordings and call-in seance.
After the broadcast, Stewart and his team vanish.
Too good to be true? It is. A good premise for a movie? It definitely is.
With the "WNUF Halloween Special," screening Friday at the Creative Alliance, Baltimore filmmakers Chris LaMartina and Jimmy George (well, they're technically dubbed "archivists" on this project) inventively turn the found-footage horror film trend on its head. "Found footage flicks ... are both voyeuristic and visceral — two crucial elements to an effective horror flick," said 28-year-old LaMartina, 28, via email. "The rough-around-the-edges aesthetic makes it even scarier."
But beyond twisting the found-footage aesthetic for this new film from his Baltimore-based Midnight Crew Studios, LaMartina also had very specific influences in mind. Below, he talks about five.
Mike Randall's 'Very Scary Halloween Special'
Mike Randall was a local news reporter based in Buffalo, N.Y., in the late '80s and I discovered his weird/wild news reporting style about 20 years too late. His classic "Very Scary Halloween Special" was a hodgepodge broadcast of horror-themed news packages and local ghost stories. His Halloween special was a very huge influence of the writing of "WNUF." It's kitschy, eerie, blatantly local and insanely lovable.
'Ghost to Ghost AM'
As any esoteric radio fanatic will tell you, Art Bell and his overnight radio program, "Coast to Coast AM" are full of fascinating content. Each episode, Art would interview wild guests — folks like UFO experts, paranormal researchers, Bigfoot hunters and everything in between. The best programs, however, fell annually on October 31. Art would allow unscreened open lines where listeners could call in with their own personal ghost stories. Art left the show in the early 2000s, but the show goes on currently with a different host.
Geraldo Rivera's 'Satanic Panic' program
The 1980s were a terrifying time. The Cold War was raging, AIDS rates skyrocketed and heavy metal music was turning our nation's children into bloodthirsty butchers hellbent on destroying civilized society. At least, that's the agenda that everyone's favorite muckraker, Geraldo Rivera, was promoting with his truly ridiculous program on the "Satanic Panic" craze. Within that hour-long broadcast, Rivera interviewed Church of Satan officials, outraged parents of juvenile delinquents and even the celebrity wild man, Ozzy Osbourne, in what I consider the crown jewel of any serious trashy television library.
'Halloween: Trick or Treat?'
There are some people who actually believe that Halloween is an evil holiday created for and by devil worshipers and this VHS cassette produced by a religious organization determined to stop the celebration of the day is proof. Filmed in the late '80s, "Halloween: Trick or Treat?" is a jaw-dropping, mind numbing, exercise in bizarre scare tactics. Footage of adorable trick-or-treating kids get cross-cut with grainy photos of animal mutilation. Are they related? They must be. Maybe?
Growing up with local Baltimore television
It's no co-incidence that WNUF is dangerously close to the call letters of Baltimore's WNUV TV-54. Each day, I would race home from school to watch the low-budget kids' after-school TV show, "Commander 54 Space Corps." And every Saturday, I shivered in anticipation to see what horror flicks popped up on WNUV's Nightmare Theater. WNUV made cheap shows with a lot of a heart and it's an aesthetic that WNUF embraces and pays great homage to.
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