Netflix boasts quite a selection of documentaries. Foodies have Chef’s Table and Ugly Delicious, both of which make cooking more fascinating than you could imagine. For the budding criminologists, there’s the addictive How to Make a Murderer. This past week, Netflix gifted horror fans with the horror docu-series, Haunted. But don’t get excited. As it turns out, Haunted is the equivalent of getting rocks in your trick-or-treat bag.
Haunted Buries Its Own Concept With A Lame Format
My name is Haiden. I know I have a demon attached to me” (Episode 6)
Maybe you were expecting a panel of paranormal experts dissecting supernatural tales. Well, you can forget it. Instead, Haunted mixes ‘dramatic re-enactments’ with ‘actors’ and the actual ‘haunted’ telling their story while surrounded by family and friends. The conceit of the format is that these are real people telling their stories to loved ones. It’s painfully awkward and stupid. While this “real” person (not an actor) tearfully recounts their experiences, you’re bludgeoned with reaction shots from family and friends. Facial expressions range from confused to constipated.
They even include a title card assuring us that ‘The following is a true story’. Sure.
There are no attempts to dig into these stories. Oh, Haunted tries to convince you it’s all real. They even include a title card assuring us that ‘The following is a true story.’ Sure. If the docu-series wanted authenticity, it could have made some effort to present research or other testimonials. Maybe the odd site visit. I would have even settled for some EMF meters or night-vision cameras. I truly don’t understand the point of having family and friends staring dumbfounded while listening to these stories.
Only Six Episodes, But It’s Six Episodes Too Many
Netflix original series are often criticized for packing in too many episodes. In contrast, Haunted seems thankfully restrained with only six episodes. Each episode is also only 20 to 30 minutes in length. Yet somehow it still feels like too much. Nowhere in the approximate two to two and a half hours of this contrived mess is there an original idea.
Episode titles include ‘The Slaughterhouse’, ‘Alien Infection’, and ‘Children of the Well.’ One episode even follows a young woman who keeps a stolen headstone from an ex-boyfriend. And don’t worry, one of the episodes makes reference to an ‘old Indian burial ground’. With so many fascinating urban legends to explore, it’s disappointing that Haunted chooses to mine old horror tropes.
Cheap, Recycled Horror Imagery Abounds
Younger Netflix viewers may enjoy some of the re-enactments. Older horror fans are more likely to yawn than cringe. It’s almost as though the series creator binged hours of horror films while scribbling drawings and notes on a napkin. There’s a lot of cheap looking imagery that’s reminiscent of better horror films and shows. Most of the re-enactments are frenetically edited with blaring generic horror music. You can forget subtly. Haunted feels like an anvil being dropped on your head. Episode 3, The Slaughterhouse, gets bonus points for its nonsensically hyper footage.
Haunted Reveals the Horrors of the Cash-In
Haunted may be awful, but Netflix knows what it’s doing. They dropped this series close to Halloween. Just to be safe, they tucked it right in between The Haunting of Hill House and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Apparently, some viewers are just realizing that the stories in Haunted may not be real. No kidding. The scariest thing Haunted accomplished – it made me miss Zac Bagans. Damn you, Netflix.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: F