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Friday, October 14, 2011

GHOST HUNTERS: SEASON SIX, PART 2 -- DVD review by porfle

From what little I've seen, SyFy Channel's "Ghost Hunters" is a pretty fun show to watch.  We have a paranormal investigation group called TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) traveling to celebrated haunted sites around the U.S.A., spending a night collecting "evidence" and personal experiences, and then analyzing it all for proof of ghostly manifestations.  Sounds like fun to me.

None of this is really terrifying--if it were, in fact, you'd probably hear even more cries of "fake!" from the show's skeptics.  But it is pleasantly creepy, as I found from watching the 3-disc DVD set GHOST HUNTERS: SEASON SIX, PART 2.  The team sets out to either prove or disprove the ghostly accounts related to them for each location, seemingly with equal enthusiasm, which adds some credibility to the show's "100% real" claims. 

Of course, we have no way of knowing how much of the supernatual stuff shown is real--if any--or whether or not SyFy and TAPS are just pulling the wool over our eyes.  But that doesn't really matter if the show succeeds in making us suspend disbelief for a while, which, in my case, it does.  And something about the earnest nature of the participants tends to make me think they're pretty much on the level.  Does that make me gullible?  Maybe, but I still find the show entertaining.

The group is headed up by a couple of plumbers named Grant and Jason, who "moonlight" as paranormal investigators.  Some episodes open with them in full plumbers' regalia as they unstop somebody's toilet before getting called into ghost-hunting action.  These scenes, like several others along the way, are obviously staged, but that's to be expected in a show like this.  After being briefed on the latest mission by the team's case researcher (resident babe Kris Williams performs this duty for most of the episodes before being transferred to "Ghost Hunters International"), they set off for their destination along with fellow investigators Steve Gonsalves, Dave Tango, Amy Bruni, and whoever else happens to be in the line-up at the time. 

A site representative--usually a docent or tourist liason, sometimes a resident--gives them a tour of the place and a rundown on reported ghostly activity.  The team sets up their cameras and other equipment and waits until sundown, when it's "lights out."  That's when things start getting spooky.  Wandering around in the dark in groups of two or three, they urge the spirits to reveal themselves in some way, which is something that you will never, ever catch me doing, ever.

Much of the time nothing happens, but occasionally there are footsteps, knocks on the walls, and disembodied voices that can't be explained.  (Later analysis often reveals things that were missed first time around, although the interpretations of these anomalies as "supernatural phenomena" can be pretty loose.)  Some of the encounters result in what appears to be an interaction with unknown entities, as when questions are "answered" by a blip on an instrument or a flicker on a flashlight.  In some cases, video seems to reveal a shadowy humanoid shape lurking in the room, but there's never anything really definitive. 

Then again, the mere possibility is enough to raise the hackles on the back of my neck.  The show, naturally, is designed to do just that, with shock editing and strident musical cues working overtime to make everything that happens seems as creepy as possible, compounded by the overall ghostly look which the night-vision cameras lend to the participants and their surroundings.  Add to this the sudden banging noises, footsteps running across the room, doors opening or closing by themselves, and team members freezing with apprehension upon seeing something weird (often accompanied by Grant breathlessly asking "What wuzzat?"), and you've got the makings for some BLAIR WITCH PROJECT-style chills. 

The locations are a big factor, with the TAPS team finding themselves in some of the scariest places I can imagine.  One of them is the Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama, one of those dangerous old industrial complexes where several workers died due to nonexistent safety measures.  (Ghost enthusiast Meat Loaf joins them on this one, and turns out to be a pretty good team member.)

Another is the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, a dark place with a cloud of death and suicide hanging over it, and the Ulster County Jail in Georgia where a lot of bad things have happened over the years.  These locations with violent and otherwise tragic histories, whose spectral inhabitants are the most troubled or malevolent, are the spookiest.  An old school in Illinois where a young girl was raped and murdered by a janitor is another shudder-inducing spot, as is the imposing Buffalo Central Terminal, location of the 2006 indy horror flick PRISON OF THE PSYCHOTIC DAMNED.

Other locations are a bit more on the lighter side, relatively speaking.  A visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to try and commune with the ghosts of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, whose voices are said to emanate from their wall plaques, is more fun than frightening.  Ditto for the boyhood home of author James Thurber, whose true-life account "The Night the Ghosts Got In" is investigated--and pretty much debunked.  As always, Grant and Jason seem to derive just as much satisfaction from successfully debunking a ghost legend as they do validating it, often discovering them to be misperceptions of the most mundane things. 

The 3-disc, 13-episode DVD set from Image Entertainment is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  No subtitles or extras. 

You'd have to be a total skeptic to discount everything that happens in GHOST HUNTERS: SEASON SIX, PART 2 as fake.  Personally, I can't, because I've heard disembodied footsteps in an empty room myself, while visiting a friend whose house was purportedly haunted.  Maybe that's why I'm open to all this stuff, and why I find this show to be as unsettling as I do.  In a fun and entertaining way, that is.  As long as I'm safe at home with the lights on.  Wait--what wuzzat?

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