Last Halloween, Netflix released Mike Flanagan’s outstanding, The Haunting of Hill House. Oh, Netflix also released paranormal docu-series, Haunted. Of course, calling it a ‘docu-series’ is pretty generous. That is, no episode had any investigation or, you know, evidence. Haunted borrowed an infotainment format to put scary stuff up on screen to cash in on Halloween. Since Netflix doesn’t generally release viewer numbers, we’ll assume Haunted scored with audiences because it’s back. Six more episodes. Same ‘real’ people telling their stories to ‘dazed and confused’ family members and friends.
Haunted’s Season 2 Recycles Its Lame ‘Docu’ Format
Check out Netflix at any given time, and you’ll find a half dozen or so crime docu-series. Stalkers Who Kill. Killer Kids. Inside the Criminal Mind. Killer Cults. So lots of killers. All of these series work roughly in the same way. They mix documentary sensibilities with a heavy emphasis on entertainment formatting – quick editing, creepy music, haunting graphics overlayed on images. These aren’t documentaries like The Keepers, Making a Murderer, or Conversations with a Killer. Sure, there’s information in these series, but the focus is clearly on ‘fear as entertainment’. Haunted adopts the same approach, just with a lot less of that investigation stuff.
Most of the facial expressions in these reaction shots are comically blank.
Like Season 1, Haunted’s six new episodes double-down on the awful format. A survivor of some supernatural encounter sits, surrounded by family and friends, as they recount their experience. Haunted treats us to several reaction shots and the occasional ‘Oh my God’ comment. Most of the facial expressions in these reaction shots are comically blank. Why the show continues with this format is a mystery? Given that the series makes no effort to include any sort of ‘investigation’ or ‘evidence’, these scenes are awkward and pointless. Fortunately, Haunted includes dramatic re-enactments of these supernatural experiences.
Netflix (And A Few) Chills
In spite of its convoluted format, Haunted is sporadically creepy. Bear in mind, there’s nothing original about any of the scares. Specifically, Haunted liberally borrows familiar horror tropes for its jolts. Yet at least the first two episodes – The Mimic and Ward of Evil – almost feel watchable. Minus the annoying ‘family roundtables’, Ward of Evil actually has some unsettling imagery. Other episodes – Cult of Torture and Demon of War – try to embed some social commentary with references to gay conversion therapy and the Afghanistan war. Talented horror directors, like Romero and Peele, have used the genre to expose real socio-cultural anxieties. Comparatively, Haunted on Netflix has no idea what to do with these stories. In particular, Cult of Torture borders on being unintentionally tasteless.
Haunted on Netflix Ain’t Afraid of No Tropes
Haunted isn’t a good series; not even close. Anyone looking for a paranormal investigation or ‘ghost hunters’-type show will be sorely disappointed. For example, doubling-down on the family round-table format doesn’t just kill any tension or momentum. Most of these scenes are filled with mind-numbingly dumb observations. Occasionally, Haunted has some creepy imagery. But it’s kind of like a local haunted house attraction. Nothing amounts to more than a collection of randomly assembled things that the creators know people find scary. But with only six episodes that average 20 to 25 minutes in length, Haunted doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you’ve already watched Marianne and are all caught up on AHS 1984, Haunted isn’t the worst thing on Netflix.