Since this 2-Disc, eleven episode set has inspired within me such a powerful rage I'm going to throw a whole bunch of disclaimers at you. I'm not a hater of the paranormal, I believe in at least the possibility, if not the probability of most of it. I think psychics and mediums can help law enforcement solve crimes - and I love the show Medium. But for Sensing Murder - a reality show about two women with paranormal abilities who help police work on unsolved murders - so many things rub me the wrong way that I have an extremely difficult time sitting through the episodes. From the grindingly formulaic nature of the show to the sheer disagreeable nature of the protagonists (not to mention the fact that - SPOILER ALERT - they never solve any frickin' crimes - END SPOILER) Sensing Murder will leave most viewers wanting to commit murder.
These 42-minute episodes reveal little new in the reality crime genre. A dire voice hisses lurid words about some poor soul or souls lost while small home-movie images poignantly bring reminders. So far, so sad - but not groundbreaking. Speculative reenactments of the murders hype paranoia those corn-fed on Unsolved Mysteries have come to love and loathe. Cops talk to the camera about never giving up, and God bless them for keeping up the fight. Throw in frequent breaks for commercials and lots of recaps - down to the exact same narration being played at different points in the episode. And you've got a recipe for your standard time-wasting crime show. You either really love it or you pass on by.
But these stories from Investigation Discovery Communications have a hook, they've got two psychics doing two things; hoping to breathe new life into cold cases, and lookin' for a little 'fifteen minutes', I guess. Unfortunately, episodes with prurient titles like Basement Horror , Prairie Predator and Dream House Nightmare do more than make the sensitive lock their doors, they raise the hackles on anyone with even a bargain basement BS-meter. While I neither believe nor disbelieve in the skills of Psychic Pam and Medium Laurie, it's well nigh impossible not to be skeptical about their pronouncements. Yes, they intuit things before they've been told about the crimes, and these things are sometimes correct. No mention is made as to the women's accuracy ratings - aside from a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode that states that their involvement hasn't lead to any answers - but one must look at the types of things the ladies reveal and wonder how much your average cop couldn't come up with as well.
Unsubstantiated things like: "I'm seeing a tan or white or silver or light blue pickup truck" feel like shots in the dark that go nowhere. But deep insights like: "I feel the murder victim was terrified," or the murderer "hates her," and "he's angry" just make you want to start breathing into a paper bag. How much psychic energy does it take to suppose a murder victim is scared or a murderer is angry? When your paranormal investigative process seemingly constitutes saying a bunch of stuff until something makes sense it really strains credulity: for instance, dig this heavy thought, "at that point I feel like she's alone, or by herself." Well, which is it? I don't know if Pam Coronado or Laurie Campbell, touted as two of the nation's top psychic investigators, are for real or not, but it sure looks like a non-gifted crime investigator with good observational skills and a gift for mysterious gab could do as well.
Frankly, this series just makes bad TV. Each episode reaches the same conclusions; a few things for the investigators to think about, but nothing else. The cops all seem to feature droopy mustaches and desperately resigned attitudes, while Pam and Laurie are just grating. Either dowdy or haughty, these paranormal investigators just don't make for enjoyable viewing. It's wrong to be so petty, but Pam never really opens her mouth to speak and I can't handle it. On the other hand, Laurie comes off as dyspeptic and disheveled. The pair form a united front characterized by a weird combination of patronizing, ingratiating and off-putting mannerisms as they stretch and strain for their impressions, impressions like "I think the murderer was angry." Thanks for the help, ladies.
Sensing Murder's original broadcast ratio full-frame presentation, a 1.33:1 ratio, that is, is just fine. Colors are moody and drab, the image is relatively sharp and compression artifacts are kept to an acceptable minimum. There's nothing to really recommend the picture, but not much to complain about either. It's bland TV on a bland DVD.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio does what it needs to but no more. Narration is mixed at appropriate levels with soundtrack elements, and is always discernible, even if the things said often make you go 'hmmm'.
No extras, no closed captioning, no subtitles, and no answers to these crimes are presented.
Take a pair of paranormal investigators not ready for primetime, add a bunch of vague or obvious psychic insights that plenty of good observers could manufacture, then repeat with little to no variation. The result is an aggravating true crime show that never comes up with any answers, does few favors for the notion of psychic investigation, and just prolongs the pain for families that have lost loved ones to senseless violence. Can you guess which recommendation I'm going to give? Skip It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com