The recording shows the (fictional) television channel WNUF TV28 in full Halloween spirit, with its newscasters in costumes and reporting appropriate content. This segues into the titular special, which investigates a Haunted House which was the site of the infamous "spirit board murders" 20 years earlier, with psychic and spiritual help to detect and exorcise whatever evil spirits may be lurking within.
But the program doesn't go exactly as planned...
This recording has examples of:
- Attack of the Political Ad: There are ads from two state governor election candidates attacking each other with accusations of infidelity, corruption, and excessive gun control.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Mrs. Harris and her partner apparently get away with murdering the camera crew and their guests, despite the fact her face is briefly caught on-camera.
- Bring My Brown Pants: The actor who was hired to play a priest wets himself as terror takes a hold on him in the basement.
- Chainsaw Good: The special's producer Veronica gives its host Frank Stewart a scare by suddenly appearing before him in a ski mask and holding a running chainsaw.
- Chekhov's Gunman: HARVEST spokesperson Mrs. Harris and the random guy who jumped on Stewart outside the house prove to be significant later on, as they're the ones responsible for the disappearances of the crew at the end.
- Creepy Basement: The finale of the Halloween Special was supposed to have a live exorcism being performed in the house's basement, as the bodies of the Spirit Board Murders were found there.
- Deliberate VHS Quality: The movie is full of VHS scratches and generally poor picture quality, as if it was taped direct from broadcast back in '87 and has sat on someone's shelf ever since.
- Everyone Is Satan in Hell: In-Universe. The HARVEST evangelical group are convinced that celebrating Halloween guarantees you a one-way ticket to Hell. Present on a subtler level in the way the history of the Haunted House itself, and the way every telling emphasizes that the killer was very fond of playing with a Ouija board.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: The Bergers' cat Shadow supposedly has clairvoyance, which enables it to sense supernatural things before Claire.
- Fang Thpeak: A costumed audience outside of the haunted house is being asked by Stewart about its history. A tall, scared-looking man in a vampire costume, complete with cheap plastic fangs, says "Shomebody died in thish houshe?"
- Harsher in Hindsight: Done intentionally in-universe with an ad for a flight company, which features the skyline of New York with the Twin Towers (which were destroyed in 2001) in full display in its penultimate shot.
- Hollywood Satanism: There's a spot in the show about Satanists mutilating animals and vandalizing church-grounds.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: A live special goes wrong on Halloween, how appropriate.
- Kitschy Local Commercial: Tons of them, including one for a shop dedicated to rugs and a local petting zoo (with free pony rides!), which help to sell the "'80s local TV station broadcast" angle.
- Murderer P.O.V.: On a metafictional level: the ending of the movie implies that the video tape of the broadcast - the video tape we are watching - was made by the killers themselves, since it includes Phil being murdered on camera, yet the final sequence with the two news anchors shows that they don't know whether Phil is alive or dead, suggesting that Phil's death was not broadcast. On a more literal level, during the scene in question, a murderer is holding the camera.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Bergers are an obvious parody of Ed and Lorraine Warren.
- Off with His Head!: The killer responsible for the "spirit board murders" decapitated his parents with an axe (which was ordered by demons), and their headless ghosts now allegedly haunt the place.
- Real Trailer, Fake Movie: There are various ads for fictional shows and movies, including a family picture called Doggone It and a Mummy horror film called Sarcophagus.
- The Reveal: There's no supernatural activity in the house (all evidence to the contrary was created or caused by the producers for ratings, the "priest" was just an actor, and it's likely the Bergers were frauds), but there are two psychos killing people with an axe.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: The aforementioned report of church vandalism includes a quick shot of a graffiti-covered church wall - the perpetrator misspelled "Satan" as "Satin".
- Shellshocked Veteran: One news segment is about the first anniversary of a tragic death on Halloween - a Vietnam veteran had a trick-or-treater come to his door dressed as a soldier. He mistook the boy for a Vietcong insurgent, and shot him.
- Spiritual Successor: For 1992's Ghostwatch, which was also a "live broadcast" of a Haunted House investigation, although WNUF is more tongue-in-cheek and doesn't pretend that it's real.
- Spooky Séance: Subverted. One segment of the Special is supposed to have the audience calling a number and asking questions during a seance held by Claire Berger. They only get crank calls, and are soon interrupted with the offscreen mutilation of the cat Shadow.
- Title Drop: Accompanies every cut to and from a commercial break."You are watching the WNUF Halloween Special."
- Tongue Trauma: Mrs. Harris cuts off Stewart's tongue before the live feed from the camera disappears for good.
- Very Special Episode: One of the commercials seen is for a "very special episode" of a sitcom, where the fun uncle character has a drinking problem.Kid: Uncle Jack was drinking something that looked like medicine.