Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ghost Hunters International: Season 1, Part 1
TV on DVD review by Sombrero Grande

The SyFy Channel series Ghost Hunters has ruined all other paranormal reality shows for me. Unlike most other shows of its ilk, on Ghost Hunters a team of investigators travel to a supposedly haunted location and try to debunk the stories that anything paranormal is actually happening there. The result is reassurance when they are able find a conventional explanation to a wild story, but when they can't or instead uncover something paranormally fascinating, their evidence becomes all the more remarkable. The fact that they focus on hard evidence, the kind that would turn a skeptic into a believer, is and has been refreshing ever since the show first aired.

Apparently I'm not the only one to feel this way, as the show has become successful enough to warrant spin-offs, like Ghost Hunters International. While Ghost Hunters focuses its attention mostly (though not entirely) on U.S. haunts on the east coast, GHI was created to allow a second team to run all over the world exploring locations with much longer histories.

There are plenty of familiar faces on GHI due to the fact that many of the investigators that make up the GHI team began as regulars on Ghost Hunters, including Andy Andrews, Dustin Pari, Barry Fitzgerald, Donna La Croix and Brian Harnois, who is perhaps best known for his exclamation of "Dude, run!" during an investigation. Kris Williams fills in on one investigation in the episode "Castle of the Damned" and Ghost Hunters hosts Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes pop up a couple times to make brief cameos.

The format of GHI is nearly identical to that of the original series: a group of investigators get briefed on a reportedly haunted location via a tour; they set up their equipment and stay at the location overnight, using video and audio equipment to try and catch whatever activity they can; they review the evidence and then report back with their findings. The elements that differ about GHI from Ghost Hunters are both the shows biggest strength and weakness, respectively: older, more varied locations, and less charismatic hosts.

The coolest aspect of GHI is all the incredible places the team is able to visit and investigate. More often than not, the Hunters find themselves in fascinating old castles, where the recorded histories meld with fable and lore. In this 3-disc DVD set containing the first half of season one, their travels take them all over the U.K., to Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and New Zealand.

Where the show stumbles a bit is in its choice of hosts, particularly the stone-faced Robb Demarest. It's obvious that Demarest is a great investigator and team leader from watching the show, it's just that, well, he comes across very awkwardly on camera at first. I never really had considered Ghost Hunters hosts Wilson and Hawes, the two plumbers turned paranormal investigators, to be particularly "charismatic," but compared to Demarest, there's a considerable difference. It's most apparent in the episode "Frankenstein's Castle," in which the team is accompanied by the decidedly more amiable host of Destination Truth, Josh Gates. Gates is relaxed, funny and appears to be having a good time. Demarest, on the other hand, seems to wince in pain whenever he tries to emote or remark on something that isn't strictly business-related. He stares, unblinking at times, and constantly looks like he's mentally preparing himself to kick someone's ass. As the first half of the first season comes to a close on these discs, there's a difference in Demarest's demeanor as he begins to act more casually. I know it could simply be me getting used to him, but it appears to be him getting used to hosting a show.

Like Ghost Hunters, GHI can occasionally dip into decidedly "cheesy" territory with its false scares right before commercial breaks and misleading promos at the start of each episode. There's also a particularly obnoxious interchange at the end of one episode when Demarest blurts out, "that ghost got hunted," to which co-Lead Investigator Andrews adds, "International-style!" Guys... don't EVER, EVER do that again!

This is rather an odd series to own on DVD. As with Ghost Hunters, GHI's episodes are edited together to constantly try to shock and surprise the audience with numerous set-ups and reveals. Once all the evidence (or lack thereof) has been revealed, there really isn't much to be gained from a repeat viewing, which makes it tough for me to recommend purchasing this DVD set. A first-time viewer would be better off catching a repeat episode on the SyFy Channel. There's little to no continuity between episodes, so they can be easily viewed in any order.

For viewers who enjoy the show and have already seen these episodes on television, this DVD set offers up very little extra material to entice a purchase. The case feels cheap and includes no printed material inside, just the three DVD discs. The only bonus material on the discs consists of a few scenes edited out of each episode, none of which offer anything new in terms of paranormal evidence, but instead reveal some behind-the-scenes moments and additional information about some of the locations. Some of the footage captures the investigators joking around with one another playfully and honestly I wish some of that could have made it into the actual show. These clips show a far more relaxed Demarest, and perhaps it wouldn't have taken me so long to get accustomed to him as a host if I had been able to see these moments earlier.

If you're already a fan of Ghost Hunters, then Ghost Hunters International is a good source of "more of the same." But, chances are, if you are already a fan of Ghost Hunters then you've already seen at least one episode of GHI and have formed your own opinion. If you've never seen a single episode of either and are interested in a good paranormal investigative show, I'd recommend checking out the original Ghost Hunters series first before GHI.


I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period.

Article first published as DVD Review: Ghost Hunters International - Season One Part 1 on Blogcritics.

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