Ghost Hunters International
Sci Fi Channel Wednesdays 9:00 EST
starring: Robb Demarest, Andy Andrews, Brian Harnois, Donna LaCroix, Barry Fitzgerald, Shannon Sylvia.
I’m starting this one off with another confession. I kind of believe in ghosts. There. I said it. It should come as no surprise. I grew up in the buckle of the bible belt, where every misfortune and unexplained event was regarded as evidence of demonic activity, especially after the Frank Peretti books became popular (that man has a lot to answer for). We all said we didn’t believe in ghosts, per se, but … we really did, at least a little. These days I can admit it. I don’t believe in them as much as some people do. I like to think of it as keeping an open mind, but yeah … I believe, at least a little. But it’s probably only because I really, really hope it’s all true.
So, recently my wife and I have become addicted to Sci Fi’s paranormal reality series, Ghost Hunters. Yeah, I know. It’s just always been a bit of goofy fun. We particularly enjoy figuring out the real-world causes for the “hauntings” before the investigators do. And on those rare occasions when they do find actual paranormal activity? Awesome! Yes, I kno it could all easily be faked. But if you’re going to enjoy a show like this, you just have to go along with the fantasy. Otherwise, what’s the point? Please know that I in no way see this is a serious documentary show. It’s just for fun.
Apparently getting a good response from those episodes of Ghost Hunters that went to Europe, Sci Fi commissioned this spin-off series, wherein a team of investigators made up of some veterans, some friends, and at least one newbie go to Europe to investigate ancient haunted places.
What works: The European setting brings a new epic, mythic feel to the proceedings that just is not possible in the U.S. The teams walks through castles and plazas and monasteries haunted by history, let alone by ghosts. That’s this spin-off’s strongest advantage over its parent show. Here, we’re looking for victims of the plague, of bloody torture, or religious persecutions and actual dead kings, not just 70’s suicide victims, civil war soldiers, and cowboys (not that those aren’t cool too). From a story perspective, this is gold. Looking for a ghost in an actual medieval torture chamber (with most of the equipment still intact)? Classic.
What doesn’t work: This show lacks the primary strength of Ghost Hunters, and that’s the presence of lead investigators Jason and Grant, as well as Tech Manager Steve. In their place, we have Robb, apparently a veteran who’s worked in the Paranormal Society’s Florida branch; Andy, a veteran of the US team; and Brian, Steve’s right-hand man in the tech department. Grant and Jason bring a friendly, skeptical, jokey vibe to the proceedings and have a parental chemistry with their team that is the result of a long bond. That atmosphere is completely absent here. Robb and Andy are all right as investigators, but clearly do not have that bond, and the gentle humor is almost completel absent. Brian continues his role as lovable doofus of the group. Everyone needs one of those, but without his mentors, its hard to take him seriously as an investigator or as any kind of authority figure.
Donna, US case manager, is here too, and she is fine, I guess, but fails to impress as she’s always been one of the more gullible team members and without Jason and Grant to hold her back, just gets more shrill here. Then we have new members Barry and Shannon. Barry actually appeared in the Ireland episodes of the original show, and there seemed just a little too invested in finding evidence of the paranormal, having a tendency toward the overly dramatic. This is even worse here. At any moment he may stroke his beard (not a euphemism!) and whisper “there’s an evil presence in this room.” And Shannon … sigh. Her storyline seems to be that she’s the inexperienced one who is getting stronger over time. That can’t come fast enough for me, as she’s usually the first to scream, to be shrill, to sit stooped in a corner with the night-vision camera turning her eyes into wide silver disks, raccoon-like. I honestly don’t know why she’s there.
Bottom line: It’s a lot of fun, still and the locations are wonderful. The team needs a lot to be desired. It would have been better to do an International Season of Ghost Hunters with the original team intact (yes, I know Steve won’t fly so we would have been relying on Brian anyway). So it’s good enough for what it is but I can’t wait for Jason and Grant to be back with new episodes of the original in March.
Anyone want to join me in forming PAPS: Pacific Alliance for Paranormal Studies? Seriously, email me. I’ll bring my digital video recorder and laptop, you bring the EMF detector and the motion-activated camera. There’s a spooky barn on the road back to my house that I think needs to be checked out.