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Wednesday, February 29, 2012


"This is the really-real world," T-Bird reminds us in THE CROW, and it's up to the viewer to decide whether or not there's room in it for the spooky antics of GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL: SEASON TWO, PART 1.  Part of the fun may be not knowing if the ghosts are real, or even, for that matter, whether our earnest, intrepid ghost-hunting heroes are for real (I think they are) or if we're all just having our collective leg pulled.

The show seems to take all of this stuff dead seriously, and it's easy to let yourself buy into it if only for the sake of being pleasantly entertained.  The ghost hunters themselves seem sincere enough, especially since they put as much effort into debunking this stuff as they do verifying it.  One of the most interesting things about the show, in fact, is seeing what logical explanations they can come up with for various accounts of seemingly paranormal activity.

Team leader Robb seems to have lightened up a bit since we reviewed season one, part one of GHI and heads things up with a casual confidence.  Tech guy Barry, the Irishman with the unfortunate soul patch, still reacts comically to sudden noises and movement but seems to have overcome his tendency to run away from them.  New guy Dustin has settled in quite well as a key member of the team even though he still wears that geeky backward-inverted visor.  Three new players, case manager Brandy and investigators Ashley and Joe, also handle themselves well, as does temporary member Paul, who brings with him some cool new tech gadgets for the team to play with.

As always, each episode consists of the same three-part formula--the GHI team investigates a site, analyzes their data, and reveals their findings to whomever has summoned them there.  This is usually either someone who's frightened by the ghost stories and wants them debunked, or someone who has a stake in the location's tourist appeal, and, therefore, does not.  In the latter case, a negative finding by the team is obvious cause for disappointment. 

The investigation itself takes place in total darkness, with night-vision cameras giving the team and their surroundings an unnervingly ghostly look right off the bat.  After "lights out", they creep around in some of the spookiest places on earth trying to provoke the ghosts into either showing themselves for their cameras or letting their voices be heard on various recording devices.  Electromagnetic fields and changes in temperature are also monitored.  Often these readings indicate the presence of otherworldly entities and can even be used to apparently converse with them in simple yes-or-no terms. 

A major part of each investigation consists of "personal experiences", which are the team members' own feelings, sensations, and sightings that can't be proven or disproven but which add weight to the belief that a particular site is haunted.  Sometimes it can be a sudden chill or sick feeling, but there are more concrete examples such as being poked or prodded, hearing discernible voices, or witnessing a shadowy shape moving about.  In these cases, it's hoped that these experiences can be verified during the exhaustive analysis process later on. 

Even for viewers not inclined to believe in ghosts, the show is an interesting travelogue of strange locations all over the world.  In this set, the GHI team travels to places such as Ireland, Italy, Argentina, Malaysia, Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Chile.  They don't visit the usual tourist haunts, though--more likely, they'll be wandering around in crumbling castles, hellish prisons, sanatoriums, and other places whose histories are filled with misery and death.  Even without the ghosts, these dark, foreboding locations are creepy enough to make me glad I'm not the one having to make my way through their winding passageways.

The first episode of the set, "Wicklow's Gaol", gets things off to a rousing start as the old Irish prison, where life was cheap and torture was the norm, appears to give up many of its ghostly secrets to the team.  We get everything from strange lights on the video, disembodied voices and footsteps, and team members claiming to have felt themselves being tugged.  The gaol's curator, Marie, is so moved by the results that she's in tears by the end of the reveal.  After an episode ("Skeleton in the Closet") that consists mainly of debunking, "Gate to Hell" takes the team to Houska Castle in Prague where accounts of actual demonic activity have them jumping at shadows and being genuinely scared, especially new member Ashley.

In "Silver Shadow", Dustin sees his first-ever apparition, and the ghosts of a rather unlovely couple appropriately named the Crawleys tell the team to "get out."  Two prison hellholes, "Port Arthur Penitentary" (Australia) and "San Lucas Prison" (Costa Rica), give GHI a wealth of scarifying experiences including physical contact, voices, and a photograph that catches a ghostly figure in mid-stride.  "Quarantine Station" in Sydney, Australia, is another one of those sites whose tragic history yields a surfeit of spine-tingling supernatural activity.  In all, these thirteen episodes represent some of the most intriguing and downright scary excursions into the supernatural that the GHI team has faced.

The 4-disc set from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital stereo.  No subtitles or closed-captioning.  Disc four consists of deleted and extended scenes, most of which aren't all that interesting out of context.

It's not often you see a show--outside of the Saturday morning serials--that not only claims to feature "Hitler's Ghost" but has its stars take him on mano a mano.  It's that kind of almost unwitting audacity that helps make GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL: SEASON TWO, PART 1 such a fun bit of schlock, whether it's really-real or not. 

Buy it at

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