A&E // 2008 // 286 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // January 30th, 2009
It's not your imagination.
An annoying blend of paranormal psychobabble, spurious scientific research, manipulative editing, and good old-fashioned lies, Paranormal State is about as scary as tooth decay. It's not something that's going to keep you up at night, but neither do you want the thing hanging around your house, because yuck, it's icky.
Founded at Penn State University by Ryan Buell, the Paranormal Research Society (PRS) tasks itself to investigate the paranormal throughout the country, using a combination of detective work, research, high-tech equipment, and spirituality to help explain reported paranormal activity.
Paranormal State: The Complete Season Two contains 12 episodes from
the second (shorter!) season spread across three discs:
* "Family Ties"
* "Good vs. Evil"
* "Shadows and Smoke"
* "Haunted Ranch"
* "Hell's Gate "
* "The Ladder"
* "The Messenger"
* "Hide and Seek"
* "The Glove"
* "The Fire"
* "First Contact"
* "I Am Six"
I'm told that A&E stands for "Arts & Entertainment," which is ironic since Paranormal State contains neither. A bunch of college kids with night-vision camcorders and pointless electronic gadgets visit sad, lonely, bored American families who live in creepy old houses and hunt for paranormal activity. More often than not, they find absolutely nothing of substance, but it didn't stop them from making a full season about it. Part documentary, part ghost hunt, Paranormal State has the credibility of a carnival game run by a one-armed mullet-wearing dude named Rowdy.
Honestly, how is this even a show? I've got no problem with the paranormal, or investigating the paranormal, or researching so-called paranormal activity, but you might as well ask random strangers on the street to solve complex algebraic equations than get a bunch of Penn State kids and laughably theatrical mediums to put together a credible argument for ghost hunting. If you walk into a house and go looking for bumps in the night at 3 A.M., you'd be amazed at how many bumps you find. That doesn't mean squat. To their credit, the creators realize this fact, so every episode ends with a "we may never know the real cause..." monologue, but this actually makes things worse! It's like the show does two-thirds of the required research into their incidents, and just as things start to get interesting, with odd recorded noises, strange electromagnetic signals detected, discoveries of Indian burial grounds, moving objects -- they leave! They pack their bags and go away! Stay and finish what you started!
This show is a con, pure and simple. It gives enough eerie moments, enough shots of creepy dark rooms, cobwebs, and night-vision séances to rile up audiences into the barest of interest, then stops cold. There's no desire to actually explain any of these incidents; only to hype them up to the brink of plausible deniability and walk away without any attempt to actually explain a damn thing, because if they did, then they'd never get a third season. If Paranormal State were a commercial, it would be an infomercial that sells its audiences on cheap steak knives, then turns itself off right before announcing the price.
Still not convinced? How about the disclaimer that A&E themselves put up prior to every episode, stating how "the views on the occult and the supernatural documented in this show are not necessarily those of A&E Television Network"? Not even the network is prepared to go to bat for the garbage on this show. On the plus side, the Paranormal Research Whatever society added some moderately attractive women to their ranks, so at least you can watch them sit and nod dramatically as people explain how their creaking staircase is indicative of poltergeists. Ugh.
From a technical perspective, Paranormal State: The Complete Season Two looks and sounds a lot like Paranormal State: The Complete Season One, albeit with a slight increase in production values and a widescreen presentation. The show is about what you would expect from a standard definition A&E show dumped onto DVD with little fanfare -- muted colors, grainy black levels, and a clean overall transfer. Shamefully, the transfer is non-anamorphic, which is just stupid in this day and age. Hope you love burned-on black bars, people. The audio is a simple stereo presentation, no frills and no surprises, with clear dialogue and a string-driven horror film score. Oddly, we only get 12 episodes this time through, compared to 20 in Season One. I guess those black bars took a big bite out of the budget.
Extras take a serious quality hit compared to last season's offerings, with a 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, 5 minute of footage with members of the PRS, and 8 minutes of deleted scenes -- very little to get excited about.
Having sat through two entire seasons of this televisual trash, I can no longer come up with anything positive to say about it. It would all be lies, pure and simple. At this point, it's caveat emptor, people: if you're dumb enough to go for this stuff, then you're on your own.
Lowbrow and manipulative, Paranormal State is the television equivalent of Styrofoam -- it takes up space and is entirely inedible. Artificially crafted eeriness is no way to spend your leisure hours. Anyone seeking a genuine exploration of unexplained phenomenon and paranormal activity would be better served wandering a forest at 3 A.M. with a flashlight.
Guilty as sin.
Review content copyright © 2009 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 286 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Penn State Paranormal Research Society
* Official Site