(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Seres: Haunted
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix
The Pitch: “Real” people and their “real” friends and family gather together in front of cameras to share their “real” experiences with the supernatural, the paranormal, and other things that go bump in the night. As they share, shockingly high quality re-enactments play out, transforming their stories into horror movies on fast-forward. I dare you to just watch one episode and not want to binge the whole damn thing.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Look, there’s nothing on television more inherently trashy than “true stories told through cheesy re-enactments.” But here’s the thing: nothing is more addictive. And here’s the other thing: what if someone made one of those, but the cheesy re-enactments were actually glossy and cinematic and felt like scenes from an actual movie with a budget? Haunted does that, letting its subjects share their stories of ghosts, demons, and aliens while backing them up with re-enactments that are spooky and atmospheric and cinematic. In other words: this is trash, but it’s trash wearing a bunch of perfume and an Armani suit. And I mean that as a compliment!
Depending on your personal feelings and perspective, Haunted is one of three shows, each of them worth watching. Let’s break them down.
If you don’t believe in the supernatural at all, Haunted may come across as a completely scripted show operating under the guise of being based on a series of true stories. In fact, some episodes, like season 1’s “The Slaughterhouse,” may set off your bullshit detector from the opening moments (others have done deeper dives on this). If that’s the case, I’m not mad at all! I appreciate the hucksterism of selling fictional tales as the truth. It’s my kind of sleaze. Plus, the talking head segments are well-acted enough to lend the stories actual dramatic weight and those aforementioned re-enactments are a blast. The combination of the weighty narration and the freaky horror scenes feel like you’re watching an entire horror movie in less than 30 minutes. It’s fully satisfying as a series of haunted house tales abridged for your short attention span.
But what if the stories are true? And by that, I don’t mean factual. You don’t have to believe in ghosts or demons to believe that these folks are convinced these events happened to them and that their trauma – even if it’s built on something that doesn’t hold water – is genuine. This lends a very real and very strange power to the talking head segments, where the storyteller sits in a circle with family members and friends to share their story, confessing what they’ve been through and coming clean about how they’re hurting. We watch as those gathered ask follow-up questions, offer sympathetic nods, and just plain be there for someone who needs someone to listen and to believe. In fact, the least supernatural story of the bunch, season 2’s “Cult of Torture,” is confirmed to be very real. Of course, this is all taking place while the gory and gooey re-enactments turn their trauma into a mini horror movie, but hey, I never said this wasn’t trash!
The third option? Everyone on camera is a liar, but the producers of the show think it’s real and spent millions of dollars selling this nonsense as the real deal. And that’s just hilarious.
So pick your option. If you want something easy to binge and totally shameless, you can’t do much better than Haunted. The 12 episodes currently available on Netflix will vanish in just a few sittings.
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