When I think about it now, the good old days of Living TV’s Most Haunted were just okay. That show was very much a product of its time. It had celebrities who screamed when they bumped into walls, cobwebs, or anything else; Hollywood mediums who said they could talk to the dead through dead spirit guides; witches, glowing orbs, and evil spirits caught on night vision cameras; and scary sleepovers. Today, ghost-busting, like everything else, is a lot more solemn, and American paranormal investigators and social experiments are as big as you might expect.
You could say that the Netflix show 28 Days Haunted is the “hold my beer” of ghost-hunting shows. It sends three teams of researchers to different “haunted” places in Colorado, North Carolina, and Connecticut to “prove” the theory that it takes 28 days to fully break through the barrier between the living and the dead. I’m going to run out of quotation marks here. It’s the kind of show that should be shown in small chunks on Gogglebox, where people will either hide behind sofa cushions or roll their eyes so hard they might spin.
I’m in the second group, and I don’t mean to offend viewers who think that transistor radios and homemade helmets in the style of Daft Punk give these people a special connection to demons and restless spirits. The teams are driven to their haunted houses or other exciting places wearing blindfolds. “Not being able to see adds to our stress,” says one person, to which the other can only say the first of many “duhs.”
The second one comes right away. Amy, who is “sensitive,” says, “I can tell from here that it has a story to tell” (apparently, the word has transitioned from adjective to noun). I don’t know how she can understand that a haunted house picked by TV researchers for a show about ghosts has a story to tell, but I guess I’m not psychic.
They all stay in one place for 28 days to test their skills, talk to the dead, and generally scare each other in the dark. Only the person wearing headphones can hear the many flashing lights and radio messages. Off-screen, people talk about “oppressive energy,” and furniture is thrown around. We hear a “blood-curdling scream,” but it could also be that the door hinges need some WD40. At one point, Jereme and Brandy set up a funeral for Brandy, who is still alive, so she can talk to what might be a bad spirit. Before she gets into the coffin, “I’m really nervous about the coffin experiment.” When she goes in there, she sees a woman. “A man has caused something bad to happen to her.” How likely is it?
Having doubts about this seems like shooting fish in a barrel. If you are sceptical, it’s easy to find flaws in everything. For example, spirits can give you their first name but not their last name, which is very inconvenient. But without being a fun sponge and regardless of its “scientific” goals, is there a chance that 28 Days Haunted is so over the top and woo-woo that it tips into being entertainment?
It’s kind of like when people tell stories around a campfire. It sometimes gets scary enough that it could be a good Halloween movie if you’re sick of all the good scary films and need something new. There is, however, a less clear side. In one of the places where difficult things happen, they are linked to a rape and two murders that occurred in 1970. There are signs that the spirits led them to new information that linked the murders to another cold case. I wasn’t sure about that, but maybe not for the same reasons.