Fall Terrors on TV

With Halloween just around the corner, and because we love you so fucking much, we figured we’d let you know about some cool things kicking around on the old tube!

Haunted on Sci-fi (click for larger image)The Sci-Fi channel is continuing to court horror and paranormal fans by correcting a travesty that occurred several television pilot seasons ago by picking up Haunted, a quirky, brooding supernatural mystery program.

Matthew Fox plays Frank Taylor, a Private Investigator who is driven by angst and guilt over the disappearance of his son two years earlier. The loss cost him his job, his marriage, and some might argue his sanity, especially because he was the one who ignored the strange noise in the night which turned out to be a scumbag snatching his kid. He goes into a self-destructive spiral of trying to catch kidnappers without backup or help, and finally ends up killing the man he believes is responsible for kidnapping numerous children. However, just before he drops the grotesque tattooed freak off the roof, he manages to allow himself to be fatally stabbed. While he’s laying on the gurney, clinically dead and with frantic doctors working all around him, he walks down the hall and sees his missing son, who beckons him toward the light. Unfortunately for him (or fortunately, depending on how one looks at it), the doctors manage to revive him, bringing him back into his glorious existence of self-destructiveism, self loathing, and general angst-y behavior. There’s just one catch. Now that he’s been to the other side, the door’s been kicked open, and the unjustly slain dead seek him out. If he can get beyond being terrified out of his mind, he might just realize that he needs to help them.

As I recall it from the last time it graced the small screen, Haunted is a series that gets better, more intense and better acted, as it goes along. While the first episode showed potential, it did suffer from a large number of flaws. First, Matthew Fox, whom most will recognize from his role on Lost, spends a great deal of his broody-angst-y monologues smiling. Not “I’m cracking up” smiling or “I’m a psycho” smiling, but just a general “I’m happy” smile, which doesn’t really work. The other actors in this episode have all of the appeal of draperies, but in all fairness, they do get their chance to develop and become quite good actors, if memory serves.

What really set this series apart, and what I’m sure signaled its original demise, was the intelligence of its writing. The complex relationship between the undead P.I. and his missing-or-dead son is a great driving force, as is his reactions of alternating piercing hatred and abject terror at the dead specter that continuously taunts him. His struggle to give hope to people in need while, at the same time, trying to preserve his own sinking hope bears the making of a great character. In addition, the direction is well done and cinematography is gorgeous. It all comes together to create an atmospheric series that improves with age.

Be sure to check out Haunted Wednesdays at 10:00pm on Sci-Fi.

– Scott Johnson

Ghost Hunters on Sci-fi (click for larger image)The Sci-Fi Channel shows a great deal of faith by bringing back its 800-pound gorilla called Ghost Hunters for all your paranormal pleasure. In the season premiere, The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S.) co-founders Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes (sporting a stylish new goatee) drive from Rhode Island to Washington state to visit the world famous Northern State mental institution. The owner, who can more accurately be described as a non-believer than a skeptic, asked them to investigate and disprove the activities reported by vandals and thrill-seeking teenagers in hopes of discouraging future visits. True to form, As with every other season TAPS goes to work with all their high-tech toys and camera crews.

Returning this season are tech manager Steve Gonsalves, case manager Donna LaCroix, investigator Dave Tango, and newcomer Kris, who seems to be designed to draw in the young male audience. Conspicuous in his absence is former member Brian Hornois. Another returning aspect is the Roto Rooter schtick, bringing the viewers into the action as Jason and Grant are out on the job.

During the course of the first investigation, the team set to work disproving as many of the phenomena as they could figure. Using their usual arsenal of digital voice recorders, EMF meters, laser thermometers, and their favorite toy, the thermal camera. While Steve sweetly coached Kris, the team wound up with a plethora of experiences, both personal and recorded. Among them were cold spots, tapping, smells, EVPs, pressures, and even phantom singing. All of these accompanied by Scooby-Doo “huh?” looks and expertly-timed swells in music that burn to a grainy images of the building being investigated helps to build the suspense and tension.

During the second investigation, the TAPS team descends into the underground tunnels of what was originally Seattle to try to verify a few of the legends of the underground necropolis. While there were quite a few incidents of darting shadows and “what the hell was that?!?” the TAPS crew discovered that an investigation would be next to impossible as the noises from the surface streets echoed throughout the chambers.

Ghost Hunters and TAPS continues to outshine similar programs (like The Travel Channel’s Most Haunted) by pure professional method alone. Without the aid of overacting “mediums” or people purposefully scaring the bejeezus out of each other, the TAPS crew manages to offer a modicum of professionalism and respectability to the field of paranormal investigation. No matter where they go, they continue to attempt to eliminate all possible causes for phenomena, leaving behind evidence to be debated.

The season premiere seemed more like a continuation of the last series rather than something to kick off a new season. The network executives could have waited a single week and premiered during the month of October, but instead chose to lead with an episode that was, though acceptable, a bit anticlimactic. Next week, the TAPS crew visits San Francisco for a visit to the world-famous Presidio, followed by an investigation of a family business that is supposedly haunted by former employees. Also coming is the final “trial by fire” of the finalists of the contest in which viewers auditioned to join the TAPS team. During the Halloween show, the final three will be thrown through an investigation, with the winner chosen live.

While not the most exciting of episodes, the TAPS crew continues their tradition and reputation. According to one of their clients from this week, “If there’s something to be found, TAPS will find it.

Be sure to check out Ghost Hunters Wednesdays at 9:00pm on Sci-Fi.

– Scott Johnson

Reaper on the CW (click for larger image)I don’t usually set aside a lot of time to sit and watch television, but the number of new shows coming out this season that dip their toes into the shadowy waters of the horror genre I’m having to adjust my schedule. One of the programs I decided to check out was Reaper, and I’m glad I did. It may be listed as a comedic-drama fantasy, but when you have bounty hunting for demons in your plot…you kind of have to admit to a sprinkling of horror-flavored spice somewhere in the mix.

The pilot episode is directed by Kevin Smith, and if there’s one thing that Kevin does well it’s witty, sarcastic banter between his characters, and believe me Reaper has a plethora of great dialogue being tossed around. Reaper is extraordinarily enchanting and you easily get pulled into the onscreen fun. It’s kind of hard not to when the whole thing plays out like Employee of the Month meets Shawn of the Dead.

On the show, Sam has had a relatively easy life. His parents have always seemed to “let him slide”. He has never followed through on anything including college, and he now works in a dead end “S-Mart” type job that he barely takes seriously.

Well, the series starts out on Sam’s 21st birthday, which is usually a great day especially for “losers” like Sam. But something is not quite right in Sam’s world. He walks in on an uncomfortable conversation between his parents, and it is obvious that his mother is distressed. Sam goes about his daily routine and doesn’t give his mother’s odd behavior too much consideration.

Strange things start happening once he leaves the house. Dogs are acting weirdly, objects seem to be repelled by him, and he even saves his love interest/co-worker, Andi, from certain death. More than a bit freaked out by his own actions Sam takes the rest of the day off and is visited by a much unexpected stranger who has some even more astonishing news for him.

You see Sam’s Mother has a good reason for her emotional malaise. Before Sam was born his Father had become very ill and the only cure available? Why a pact with the Devil… Of Course! Promising the Devil their firstborn’s soul when he turns 21 seemed like an easy enough bargain…just don’t have kids and it’s all good right? Well DUH! You just made a pact with Satan… and we all know the Devil doesn’t play fair unless it’s for a Golden Fiddle!

Sam is now faced with the fact that his soul is no longer his, and that the Devil wants him to be an Earthly Demon Catching Bounty Hunter! The chronic quitter wants nothing to do with the new position he’s in until the Devil makes him aware of the direness of his plight. So with Dust Buster in hand he sets out to capture his first pyro-maniacal demon bounty. And what brand of dust buster do you use for sending escaped demons back to hell? Dirt Devil of course!

Reaper is on CW Tuesday nights at 9:00 PM EST. If you missed the opening of this unique series you’re in luck, you can catch it again TONIGHT at 9:00 EST! Set your DVR now so you don’t forget!

– Melissa Bostaph

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