Out There Halloween Mega Tape, 2022 – ★★★½

I’ve been a long time admirer of the work of Chris LaMartina, when people have asked in the past for recs on what to watch around Halloween, ‘Dead Teenagers’, ‘The WNUF Halloween Special’ and ‘What Happens Next Will Scare You’ have usually been some of my immediate ‘go to’ picks. So when, in 2019 A crowdfunding campaign run by Chris to try and get a ‘WNUF Halloween Special’ sequel off the ground landed on my radar, I backed the everloving crap out of it, as ‘WNUF’ at this point has basically become a Halloween tradition in our household.

Then, the Pandemic happened. Production got jostled, things seemingly had to be rearranged, refocussed and replanned out before finally, in 2022 ‘WNUF 2’ emerged as ‘The Out There Halloween Mega Tape’ an indirect sequel to ‘WNUF’ set just shy of 10 years after the events of the first movie.

The films presented as a ‘Recovered’ bootleg via a ‘Something Weird Video’ style mail order company known as ‘Trader Tony’s Tape Dungeon’ and as such is a double feature recording with two features from 1995 and 1996 respectively.

The first is an episode of a talkshow hosted by one ‘Ivy Sparks’ who’s leading catchphrase of ‘Be Nice’ is designed to diffuse tension with the guests on the show. Ivy comes across as a bit of a careerist and across this first half we basically establish who she is as a character, her motivations and the kind of ‘Schtick’ shes into.

The second portion of the tapes from 1996 and covers an hour long extended special of a paranormal investigation show ‘Out There’ in which its revealed that Ivy’s talkshow has been cancelled and she’s instead been moved into co-hosting on ‘Out there’ and this is pretty much her debute on the show.

In this special, they hope to get to the bottom of all things ‘Alien Abduction’ and repeatedly refer back to the strange goings on at a top secret US airbase. As you can no doubt imagine, it doesnt take long for things to start getting a bit creepy and unusual, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

From the off, do I think this is as good or better than ‘WNUF’? No. Unfortunately I dont. Theres a few reasons for it, but some of it lies in the cinematography choices and some of it lies in the scripting. and i’d like to preface my below thoughts with the understanding that this was largely shot in the middle of a pandemic where restrictions were in place that made it impossible in certain circumstances to shoot the movie conventionally. I appreciate that, and the below criticisms come with the awareness of this.

Probably the biggest single gripe I have with this film is, ironically the thing I loved about the first movie. The Ad breaks. With both this film and WNUF being imitations of ‘live television broadcasts’ there are ad breaks and all of them are fictitious and created entirely by LaMartina. In WNUF these were a nice breathing spaces that helped give the film a sense of time and place.

They wernt completely perfect, but they felt natural within the nature of broadcasting. we cut to them at reasonably paced intervals and because advancements in technology were reletively slow going in the world of low/no budget 80s advertising, there was quite a bit of leighway cut in setting ‘WNUF’ in 1987 as an advert from 1984 and 1988 if the budget was low could easily have happened at any point within that window.

‘Out there’ is specifcially set in 1995 and ’96. and the trouble with trying to mimic the style of 90s advertising is that the 90s in and of themselves were a constantly changing and developing era. barely 18 months would go by without a MASSIVE change in culture, style and tone. As such a lot of the adverts featured in this movie dont really feel ‘era’ approrpriate. Some feel like they’re trying to be too close to the hypercolourful style of early 90s advertising, while other feel like they’re aiming to be closer to that sleeker, cleaner minimalist future tech style of advertising that the late 90s/early 2000’s worked on.

As a result, to me at least, it made the film feel a little less immersive than ‘WNUF’ was, which wasnt helped by the compounding issue of there being SO many ad breaks in this thing, WAY more than most television broadcasts would ACTUALLY do. In WNUF they were spaced out in roughly 7-10 minute intervals, sometimes longer. Here; I dont think 5 minutes went by without a commercial break.

Thats not to diss the concept of commercials entirely I must add, when this thing nails the vibe of mid 90s television adverts it does so EXPERTLY I really cant fault it, but i’d say that happens about 30-40% of the time. theres maybe a 20% window for ads that are *close* to getting there stylistically but just dont quite hit it, and for a large % of the runtime its either adverts that are way off stylistically the time they were supposed to be happening in, or strange animated adverts that have been done on modern animation programmes and again just dont quite look right when converted to VHS.

I admit openly, that im probably too close to the subject if im being honest because I’ve spent most of my life watching old retro commercial compilations as a way to unwind, so im probably quite hypersensitive to this kind of thing. But I honestly believe that less sometimes can be more, and I think had they had longer narrative pieces with less ad breaks, that pooled together the better efforts (Dr. Pizza, Mullers Light, RB Harkers were standouts to me.) into a tighter package. it would have really helped in maintaining the immersion and probably helped out with the tone a little bit too.

Which is the only *other* thing I really had in the way of criticism for this thing, the tone is ever so slightly different compared to ‘WNUF’, ‘WNUF’ was largely trying to replicate a TV broadcast and as such, while it did have it’s tongue in it’s cheek throughout, there was always at least a vague attempt to try and sell you on the idea that this was actually ‘found footage’ it may have gotten a little silly in places, but it kept one foot firmly in reality.

‘Out there’ from a writing perspective has decided to lean eeeeeeever so slightly more into the humour than ‘WNUF’ did, and as such it kind of loses that more suspensful energy that the first film had, it means that some of the characters get to be a bit goofier and do goofier things that didnt really appeal to me, the ads get to be a bit sillier and less realistic and the ending…which I wont spoil here, essentially ends up being a bit of a gross out slapstick affair thats been done to death over the years. I enjoyed the ending more this time around than I did the first time I watched it, because the first time I watched it I audibly groaned at some of the humour in this.

With the issues I have out of the way, what are we left with? well, despite what i’ve mentioned above, a DAMN fun little sequel. from a script perspective we have something that works about as well as it can do. the pacing of the host led segments are fantastic and perfectly in spirit with the first film, I like that their are little references and extensions of the WNUF lore embedded throughout this thing, I think the characters that are introduced here are fleshed out nicely, are given decent arcs and develop smoothly across the runtime.

I love that they put little bits of bait in across the film that could be used to make more sequels (mild spoiler here: but theres a passing reference to another halloween special that Frank Stewart shot before ‘WNUF’ that mysteriously went missing…thats got to be easy prequel/sequel bait if ever i’ve seen it)

Despite my issues with the ads the ones that work are phenominal and had they been randomly inserted into actual 90s commercial blocks I wouldnt have batted an eye. and the pacing out of the broad overhaging plot is, maybe a little bit quicker than i’d like, but still very rewarding non the less.

In fact, barring the ending, which felt a bit rushed and ‘Done’ I enjoyed this script, tonally its a bit sillier than the original, but I still largely got on with it even if some of the humour bordered on ‘Dad joke’ level cheesy.

Where this film really comes into its own is the direction, and Chris, as always is 100% dedicated to the cause, multidubbing VHS tapes to get generational defects and deterioration is a pastime of mine, and what Chris has done to make this film look ‘weathered’ is beyond impressive and must have led to many a sleepless night. it’s an incredible work that looks fantastic, is heavily styalized and barring 1 or 2 tape faults here and there that I felt actually kind of worked against the aesthetic. This is if anything, better than WNUF in what it’s trying to achieve. I loved it I sincerely did.

As for the cine? well, for the most part, again, it’s perfect. a lot of WNUF’s style seems to have come from ‘Fox’ in the mid 90s at a glance, but theres clear influence from loads of different places dotted throughout and it was almost a game in and of itself to try and spot the influences than it was watching the film itself! They’ve reallly nailed the tone and vibe of mid 90s television shows, and barring the odd digital effect here and there, where, in the mid 90s it would have been analogue (a huge pain in the ass to replicate) I’d say this was damn near spot on.

In fact, barring what i’ve mentioned about the ads (some of the cine is a big factor for why the ones I personally feel didnt work…didnt work. IE: strange out of period animation work, CG that was a little too advance for the time, filming techniques on sequence building that was either too new or didnt quite use the right colour palettes for the time) This is probably one of the most decent replications of 90s tv that i’ve ever seen.

Performance wise; Melissa LaMartina has a mixed experience in the role of Ivy Sparks. I think in the talkshow portions she absolutely nails the brief and gives a really fantastic performance that captures the tone and vibe those kinds of hosts needed. Her performance in the ‘Out there’ segments are a little less spot on, she lands more than she misses, but there were times where the physicality wasnt quite there, the line delivery was a little too dry, it just felt like it wasnt quite as confident a play.

The actor playing Tate (theres no credits for this film, and IMDB doesnt have him listed) is very much in line with the kind of host you would get on shows like this back in the day, he’s equally spot on, gives a decent range of performance and holds himself in such a way that the likes of Jonathan Frakes would have in his own 90s paranomarl investigative show.

Together the pair work together wonderfully in terms of tone, it just maybe would have been nice to see them utilise the location space a bit more, as a lot of their sequences were basically just ‘bolted in place’ direct to camera pieces. but on the whole they work great.

I would comment on the lack of a properly defined and well rounded supporting cast…but y’know…covid and that…so I can kind of understand why they’re limited in that capacity. But near the end of the film, it did make me wonder whether, had this film been delayed by even 18 months on the production front. Whether the end results would have been considerably tighter…the world may never know.

Despite my criticisms above (which come very much from a place of love for these works) I absolutely enjoyed ‘Out There’ its a more than decent companion piece to WNUF and I could easily see it entering my regular rotation or forming a rock solid double feature night.

Definitely one i’d recommend. it’s not perfect, but it’s heart is very much in the right place, its good fun. and if you liked WNUF, im almost certain you’ll enjoy this.

source https://letterboxd.com/tytdreviews/film/out-there-halloween-mega-tape/

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