Somehow Judge Cynthia Boris doesn't think we'll ever wax nostalgic about the ghosts of reality television, since it's the beast that will never die.
"Could you lock yourself in a haunted location for 24 hours?"
Though many people swear they don't believe in ghosts, they do love watching people hunt for them on TV. SCI FI has Ghost Hunters, VH1 had The Celebrity Paranormal Project, MTV had Fear and Travel Channel has dozens of one off specials about haunted mansions, plantations, movie studios and condominiums. This time around it's the popular British TV series Most Haunted and if you're looking for ghosts, an ancient castle seems like just the place to find one. Will they, won't they? Check out this collection on DVD and find out.
Facts of the Case
Yvette Fielding and her crack team of filmmakers and paranormal investigators are on the job investigating some of the most haunted sites in the UK. Yvette runs the production company that produces the series along with her husband Karl who acts as "Director of Investigation." The most controversial member of the team is medium Derek Acorah who was exposed as a fraud by The Mirror in 2005.
This DVD includes the first two seasons of the series as they ran on The Travel Channel along with behind the scenes featurettes that look like they were made to run on the Internet to accompany each episode.
Why do I get sucked into these shows? I mean, really? They're all the same. A group of people creep around in a nasty old building, their eyes shimmering and their faces glowing green thanks to night vision cameras. They startle at perfectly normal noises. They scream when a draft swings closed a door and they swear they felt a hand on their shoulder or heard footsteps following from behind. And even if they do manage to capture something ghostly on film, how can you believe it seeing as it's TV and all that?
And yet, I can't resist the pull of Most Haunted and all of its brethren. Human nature, I guess, to yearn for some explanation, to know there's something out there beyond death. Of course, most of the spirits they encounter on this show are angry murder victims so if that's the price I have to pay for a ticket back after I die, I'd rather not.
Yvette Fielding and her crew do a right proper job when it comes to investigating hauntings. First off, since they're in the UK, they have almost a thousand years worth of history to choose from and really cool history, too. Kings and Queens and Jack the Ripper and all that lot. Even the buildings have cooler names like Aberglasney and Clerkenwell and Llancaiach Fawr Manor (can't even pronounce that one).
Then they have a guy who's all scientific who takes "baseline" readings and keeps notes on a clipboard throughout—though heaven only knows why as the whole thing is being recorded on film.
And then there's the fact that they're British, so they have really neat accents that make everything they say sound more interesting. Not to mention the fun phrases they use such as "baby sick" which apparently means baby spit-up but smells just as disgusting in either language.
I do like the sense of history that you get from each episode of Most Haunted, especially when they're in a place of real historical value. What I don't care for is their need to "reenact" ghostly visions in lieu of capturing real ones on film. Accents or not, I understand when a waiter at a haunted bar says he was pushed by an invisible force; I don't need to see an actor playing the part.
And then there's Derek. Derek is a one-man three-ring circus. He wanders the halls of the haunted locations mumbling strings of unrelated words. Impressions, he says, messages that are coming to him from the great beyond. He "picks up" names of people and descriptions of events and is always kind enough to thank the spirits for setting him right when he goes wrong. What's even more amusing are the fine print popups that appear on screen as Derek does his dance. A few of them provide further historical information in regard to Derek's revelations but most say, no more information could be found. Maybe this is because he's making it up as he goes along?
Several years after the premiere of the series, the Mirror in the UK ran an expose where another crewmember admitted to slipping Derek false information about a haunted site, which the medium then regurgitated during the filming. Fielding eventually fired the medium, claiming that she was as taken in by his act as the rest of the world. I must say, he's quite convincing and wildly entertaining, particularly when he gets up in the face of the camera crew and begins shouting for them to get out!
In this collection, the Most Haunted crew visit twenty locations, each reported to be "the most frightening experience ever." Also on the DVD you'll find a grouping of behind the scene vignettes, which are really just more of same and an extended "walkaround" at a haunted prison. Nothing to write home about.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
When it comes to the DVD itself, I have two complaints. First, each episode is divided into four parts, which, I assume, are the commercial breaks when it airs on TV. But instead of going right into the next part there is a several second delay that leaves you wondering if you need to return to the menu to access the next part. It makes no sense and even after I realized that I needed to wait it out I found it annoying.
Second, I had a problem with freezing and pixilation during several episodes on Disc One. The disc appears to have some residue on it but no amount of cleaning would get it to work.
The allure of Most Haunted and other shows like it is both logical and illogical. We watch because we want to believe. We want to see proof that ghosts exist. The fact that we expect to see proof each time we sit down to watch one of these shows is the illogical part. If a TV show did manage to capture proof of the paranormal, would we have to wait for the episode to air to see it? Wouldn't it be all over the news the moment it happened?
Face facts. You're never going to see proof of ghosts pop up on a random episode of Most Haunted or any other series, but you and I will keep watching anyway, just in case.
This court finds that the wish to believe is stronger than the logic which says it can't be true. Most Haunted: The Collection is guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
• 10-Minute Behind the Scenes Specials for All 20 Episodes
Review content copyright © 2007 Cynthia Boris; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.