Hey kids, do you like ghosts? Jason and Grant do. Who are Jason and Grant? They're two guys who spend their days working for Roto-Rooter installing toilets and fixing pipes, and at night head out all around the East Coast of these here United States either proving or, more often than not, disproving evidence of paranormal activity.
These two men of the pipe formed TAPS – The Atlantic Paranormal Society – a group that specializes in using high tech equipment, with a deft blend of common sense, experience, education and speculation to figure out what some people consider to be actual hauntings. The Very Best Of Ghost Hunters Vol. 1 gives them a chance to, with cameras rolling, do their thing and the results are pretty interesting. Grant and Jason aren't the only members of the team, however. There's a heavily tattooed cop who helps out with the cameras, a technical expert, and even a self proclaimed demonologist who wanders around the locations invoking the name of Christ to expel any spirits that might have taken up residence – very much like a low scale exorcism.
Before this review goes any further, let me clarify things a bit by stating that I am definitely in the target audience for this type of programming. Ghost are a really interesting subject to me and any time a TV show claims to be able to exhibit proof of their existence, I'm all over it.
This compilation presents a few interesting cases. The first takes them to a small town in Pennsylvania where the investigate activity that seems to be a sure fire ghost spotting. A little girl continually fights with an unseen presence over her toys, there's a strange portrait made in the early 1900s up in the attic of a dead child, and there are odd creaking noises heard throughout the house. The team use recordings to capture strange voices that can be heard in the early hours of the morning that contain very audible messages to those who live within the house.
Up next we find the crew sent off to check out an old bar, the basement of which connects to part of the Underground Railway. Patrons and employees alike have claimed to have experienced strange things in the restaurant and especially the underground portion of the building, and the crew sets out to see what's up. Some genuinely frightening events take place next that, whether you believe in ghosts or not, should send a few mild shivers down your spine.
The last investigation takes place at a man's home, he has lived there since he inherited it from his late grandfather who passed away on the premises in the back room. Objects get rearranged, more strange voices are recorded, and things are put into a sensible context that actually does explain a few things logically, as long as you're willing to believe a little bit.
Overall, while some of the bantering between team members gets tiring and some of the random plumbing footage is a bit distracting from the real meat of the series, Ghost Hunters is a pretty interesting show that fans of paranormal research should enjoy a fair bit.
The series is shot on video and sometimes with infrared cameras and under less than ideal lighting conditions but for the most part, everything comes through looking pretty good. There's some video noise in a few spots but that's part and parcel with the format and the way that this series has been shot. Overall there aren't any serious issues with the transfer in terms of mpeg compression artifacts, edge enhancement, or damage to the elements used for the presentation. It doesn't look perfect, nor will it ever, but it is definitely watchable.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is on par, in terms of presentation quality, with the video in that the way that it was recorded and the conditions under which it was recorded have affected the audio quality. Thankfully, again like the video, the dialogue comes through clean and clear and the added background music never really drowns anything out or hurts anything much at all. There aren't any problems in terms of hiss or distortion and while there are some fluctuations with the levels, for the most part this track is fine.
Well at the end of each episodes are some deleted scenes from that same episode, presented without much of a context. Most of these are bits from interviews that didn't make it into the final version of the show or shots of the TAPS members setting up – there's very little actual paranormal footage in here. Some of the interview footage is pretty interesting though and it does manage to explain a bit more in terms of the background of the cases investigated here.
Aside from that, there's an interview with the two main men behind TAPS who discuss their feelings on the material on this disc. It clocks in at about five minutes and while it's amusing, it's not all that imperative that you rush to check this feature out.
We've seen this type of material before on various different TV shows and specials, but this time out the producers are able to mix in some humor and some human drama in with the supernatural element to make this one stand out a bit from the crowd. More extras would have been welcome but the presentation is nice, making The Very Best Of Ghost Hunters Vol. 1 a very decent rental, or a recommendation if you're a sucker for this type of material.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.