Let me start by saying I almost turned this off at the 30-minute mark. Why the 8 rating you say? Because I went in expecting a traditional FF film focused on the supernatural event that the reporter was covering. What I got instead was a fantastic trip down memory lane that any Gen X’er should appreciate as a satire of growing up in a pre-internet age. Once I grasped the filmmaker’s intent to recapture the nature of 80’s culture and how hard local TV stations work to drum up excitement to keep ratings up, it became a different movie and one that instantly made me think it was a classic of the genre. The storyline is centered around the usual premise of a paranormal exploration through a local murder house which is reported to be haunted. But the genius in this film is the attention to detail to capture the feel of a local TV broadcast and the time-period. There are a ton of “commercials” shown and the fact that the film crew had to write scripts for all of them, make sure the prop continuity was era correct, and the alignment with cultural norms for the setting is simply amazing. This was a labor of love to capture a small-town society feel before HD TV and the Internet.
Adding to the genuine feel of the film, Paul Fehrenkopf delivers a stand out performance as Frank Stewart the onsite reporter who will lead the investigation. He captures the role of a local field reporter who can hold a straight face when dealing with a situation he firmly does not believe in (all in the interest of ratings), with excellence. Leanna Chamish (Deborah Merritt) and Richard Cutting (Gavin Gordon) also support the storyline nicely as the desk anchor duo who attempt to add gusto to an otherwise boring news broadcast that leads in to Frank’s Halloween special. The other acting in the film could have used improvement, and the amateur nature of those actors just falls short of adding to the low professional standards of the local broadcast. Had they just been marginally better, it would have fit right in.
I am taking 2 points off for the slightly amateurish acting by the sub characters and the ending which felt rushed and deserved more exploration. With that said this is a solid 8/10 if you understand what you are getting in to. This is not a traditional found footage horror film. It is an almost perfect time capsule of TV in the 80’s before you had 165 cable channels and Netflix. I will be watching it again with an appreciation for the filmmaker’s efforts.