History Channel // 2009 // 1116 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // October 19th, 2009
The world's scariest stories in one spine-chilling set.
The only thing spine-chilling about this collection is that it demonstrates how spectacularly the History Channel has deteriorated. Consisting of a bunch of shows vaguely united under the theme of horror stories, most of the material collected here is either monotonous or ridiculous, with only a few bits and pieces here and there of actual historical content. Also, forget about scary; you'll either pass out from boredom or turn off the DVD player in disgust before you're in any danger of being scared from most of the junk compiled here. Anyone who takes this box home for Halloween expecting a good scary time will be sadly disappointed.
Here are the programs compiled on twenty discs:
People tell stories of being haunted by ghosts.
* "The Haunted History of Halloween"
A look at how Celtic rituals merged with Catholic teachings to make a beloved holiday.
Ghosts who interact with the physical world are found in various places.
* "Salem Witch Trials"
In 1692, the farming community of Salem, Massachusetts, lives through a month of terror.
* "Vampire Secrets"
The real stories of murder and bloodlust that inspired Bram Stoker to write his 1897 novel Dracula.
* "Haunted Houses"
Ghosts are said to haunt various historical locations to this day.
* "More Haunted Houses: Tortured Souls and Restless Spirits"
More stories of ghosts and haunted houses.
Scientists debate whether or not zombies are really the resurrected dead.
* "Voodoo Rituals"
An African émigré discovers his past as the descendant of voodoo priests.
* "In Search of the Real Frankenstein"
The real stories of grave-robbing and bizarre scientific experiments that inspired Mary Shelley to write her 1818 novel Frankenstein.
* "Bloodlines: The Dracula Family Tree"
A family descended from the mortal enemies of the real tyrant who inspired Dracula returns to Romania.
* "Exorcism: Driving Out the Devil"
A history of exorcism from even before the existence of Christianity.
* "Witch Hunt"
The Salem Witch Hunt was a combination of various causes that led to some horrific acts of injustice.
* "Exorcising the Devil"
The real story of a 13-year-old boy who inspired the novel The Exorcist.
* "Voodoo Secrets"
How voodoo emerged as a combination of various beliefs and circumstances.
* "Haunted Tombstone"
The myths and legends surrounding ghost stories in Tombstone, Arizona.
* "Haunted Washington D.C."
The myths and legends surrounding ghost stories in Washington D.C.
* "Haunted Savannah"
The myths and legends surrounding ghost stories in Savannah, Georgia.
* "Haunted Hawaii"
The myths and legends surrounding ghost stories in Hawaii.
* "Haunted Chicago"
The myths and legends surrounding ghost stories in Chicago, Illinois.
Each episode gets its own disc, which in and of itself is immensely frustrating. Since most of the shows here barely last 45 minutes, that's a huge waste of space for no good reason. Constantly having to change discs over and over again makes this set a chore to use, even if the content was all flawless. It would have been smarter for History to put the related shows (the ones on voodoo, for instance), all on one disc to save space.
Even if the set was packaged more carefully, though, it would still be of minimal value. The shows presented are generally the worst kind of speculative fluff. Most fall into the same general formula: are vampires/ghosts/exorcisms/zombies real? People who claim to have experienced or seen one of those choices assert "yes" while scientists on both sides of the issue debate. Since there are no available pictures or film clips of actual vampires/ghosts/exorcisms/zombies, all of these shows rely on hopelessly silly reenactments. Then, after endless mind-numbing interviews with scientists who squabble over whether or not vampires/ghosts/exorcisms/zombies exist, no conclusions are reached at all. That's the formula used on virtually every show here, and it gets repetitive, especially when there are so many shows devoted to so few topics. How much about voodoo rituals do you really need to learn? How many stories of people hearing bumps in the night can you possibly take? Not only are these shows mostly identical, regardless of location or subject matter, but they aren't even interesting visually, not with all the hokey reenactments and incessant shots of scientists walking and reading.
The best parts are, not surprisingly, the ones with actual historical content. The shows on the Salem Witch Hunt give some fascinating details on how and why the witch hunts began and ended, even if some of the reenactments are rather cheesy. "Exorcising the Devil" does give a brief but interesting explanation on how Zoroastrianism helped define the Christian concept of monotheism. "Vampire Secrets" does have a few nuggets about the real historical influences that led Bram Stoker to create Dracula. These tidbits, unfortunately, are few and far between, and even these programs are not immune to the endless "Yes, they're real!/No, they're not!" debates. It would probably be better to pick up the individual DVDs for these shows separately, considering this massive box carries a list price of $79.95.
Technical specs are typical History: full-screen transfer (with a few programs in non-anamorphic 1.78:1) and Dolby stereo mix, both adequate. There are no extras.
Guilty of being too repetitive, too packed with filler, and too clumsily assembled.
Review content copyright © 2009 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 1116 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* IMDb: Vampire Secrets
* IMDb: The Haunted History of Halloween
* IMDb: Exorcism: Driving Out the Devil
* IMDb: Voodoo Secrets
* IMDb: Haunted History
* IMDb: Salem Witch Trials
* IMDb: Bloodlines: The Dracula Family Tree