How much truth do you want in your scary stories? Does it matter? If the answer is no, then there is always Haunted on Netflix. This is a show that will take the concept of plausibility and stretch it until there is an audible twang.
Everything about the setup of this show is odd. Each episode features a re-enactment of a purportedly ‘true’ story. Supporting such claims are the actual people involved. The show will cut between a circle of real people discussing the spooky/gory events, and the dramatic retelling often featuring actors who must have been given a brief of ‘go large or go home’.
It’s the real people telling the story that is the oddest part of Haunted. The main person will reel off the tale whilst surrounded by a selection of family and friends, some of whom were also there during the haunted events. Do these people corroborate the main person’s tale? Frequently the answer is ‘no’. Sure they say things like, “I had no idea you were going through that,” or “I generally avoided the scary room with historic bloodstains.” Sometimes they stay silent entirely, with disbelieving eyes seeming to suggest that the paycheck for turning up isn’t worth the effort.
The tales told go through every horror genre in the book so your enjoyment will likely rest on which kind of story you like best. The latest season opens with a good old Deliverance style southern USA murder house and is probably one of the most miserable episodes. The lead woman recounts her horribly abusive life, before moving out and getting friendly with a commune of marijuana growers. Then she moves in with her new boyfriend and they discover a murder room in the house. Oh no! Call the police! Wait, don’t just board it up and forget about it! Oh for goodness sake.
Yes, logic and reason barely get a look in with Haunted. In all likelihood, you will reject the ‘true story’ part early on and just take each episode as it comes. The best stories are the ghostly or magical ones. Episode 3, ‘The Gift Of Evil’ is a classic ghost story featuring a creepy child haunting a music box. This one has just enough tragedy to not be horrific. Also a winner is Episode 2, ‘Haunted by Henry’ in which all manner of poltergeist ghostly woo woos take place. And at the sillier end of the scale ‘Demon Cat’ and ‘The Witch Behind The Wall’ are daft enough to be entertaining.
It’s nastier stuff, generally involving violence towards woman, that swerves more into voyeuristic unpleasantness. Clearly wanting to ensure that the ‘torture’ genre fans don’t feel left out there are some episodes where men lose their minds and want to inflict violence on the vulnerable women around them. As there is little ‘haunted’ content here beyond ‘nasty indistinguishable voice drove me mad’ then episodes such as ‘In The Pines’ and ‘Sins of My Father’ feel like nasty exploitation at best, and real people trying to excuse misogynistic horribleness at worst.
Haunted is such a pendulum of a show. Don’t like that episode? The next one might do it for you. Enjoyed that episode? The next one might repulse you. The true story element adds little to no believability and in fact asks the question of whether it’s morally right to have people who may or may not be genuinely reliving some horrible parts of their life for the camera. At least the series’ are short and the episodes passing. If you want something moderately spooky to while away the evening hours then Haunted fulfils a need. Just don’t go in expecting behind the sofa fear, ok?
Words by Mike Record