Nothing says 'Reality TV' like the words 'ghost adventures'. If you were the kind who thought Survivor had even a remote chance of depicting how real people would act when stranded on a desert island, then Ghost Adventures is for you. On the other hand, you're probably able to get the gist that these adventures are about spooky fun and little else. What The Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures lacks in 'reality' it more than makes up for in the entertainment department, so if you are in to things that go bump in the night (whether you believe in them or not) you're certain to get a high-octane charge out of this silly, silly show.
Something of a short series-length riff on The Blair Witch Project, Ghost Adventures started as a feature-length one time special on The Travel Channel in 2006. Success stepped in, demanding a series be made, and by 2008 investigators Zak Bagans, Nick Groff and equipment tech Aaron Goodwin were doing the Scooby Doo gig in eight 42-minute episodes for Season One, which you'll find on two DVDs. (The 2006 special which was aired as a ninth episode during Season One is not included in this collection.) If you dare, you can follow along as the trio is locked down from dusk to dawn inside some of the most haunted places on earth. With an emphasis on the raw and immediate, Bagans and Co. eschew camera crews and lights, relying only on a pair of night-vision handycams and digital recorders mostly, in order to capture any mysterious phenomena.
So, either Ghost Adventures is a colossal put-on, or these guys are the luckiest ghost hunters in history. Instead of using scientific inquiry, or attempting to debunk past incidents, Bagans, Groff and Goodwin essentially bust in, start loudly challenging the ghosts, and sit back as EVPs, (electronic voice phenomena) mysterious shadows, various thumps and rattles, unexplained physical traumas and independently moving objects just start rolling in. Which of course makes for fabulously fun viewing - especially if after a few episodes you've turned your BS meter down low. These guys really have the Midas Touch as far as mediums go, able to evoke spectral evidence with a few stern words, but hey, we need payoff, and this beats Monster Quest's endless failures any day.
The crew sports personality galore, too. Bagans' all-black attire and spiky black hair, plus an exceedingly ripped physique speak of an emo-nerd gone tired of being pushed around. His enthusiasm and oddly schoolmarm-ish, clipped taunts at phantoms will grow on you even as he offers up his teammates as sacrifices to angry spirits, or dances around avoiding snakes in the funniest sequence of the whole series. Meanwhile, Groff and Goodwin maintain their status as spooked straight men with the more subtle real world charm the intense Bagans lacks.
But even those who want to believe will be hard-pressed to accept that the Ghost Adventures gang can come up with such huge bagfuls of evidence each and every time, with just one night to do it. Plus, the experts brought in to verify evidence (all of whom seem to live in Las Vegas, and many of which are scarier than the ghosts) seem to lack a certain, shall we say, credibility. EVP evidence is always kindly enhanced and subtitled, so we're sure that "scrickle ...szzz...glarp" really does actually sound like "die, Zak," or what have you, while 'orbs' captured on film, even when dismissed by Bagans as generally dust or bugs, are clearly just dust and bugs. Nonetheless, if you bought into the whole Blair Witch phenomenon - with seemingly real people screaming and running scared from invisible phantoms - you will likely find Ghost Adventures deliciously scary. There are moments in each episode that sent shivers up my spine, in no small part due to the seriously evil nature of many of the sites visited.
Gigantic abandoned prisons, Insane Asylums and underground caverns are tailor made for sickly chills. As Bagans and his buds wander about these decaying edifices - seen only through their greenish night-vision cameras - you can't help but be thrilled as a random hissing sound piques their interest at 3am, or something as seemingly blatantly fabricated as the shadow of an unseen hand reaches out to grab them. Really, Ghost Adventures is the wish-dream of any geek who wants proof of the unseen. Who wouldn't want to (probably reluctantly) get the chance to wander around alone at night (with two buddies) in an honest-to-gosh haunted house, with the chance to be scared silly and maybe come away with Belief. Never mind the fact that massive levels of adrenaline, lack of sleep, and total fear would make you believe in ghosts even if in reality what you were seeing was the neighbor's cat hacking up a fur-ball. At any rate, Ghost Adventures gives you that vicarious, grain-of-salt-laden chance, while serving up first-rate fear and fun.
Episodes include lockdowns in:
Bobby Mackey's Music World
Former Psychiatric Hospital (unnamed per request of current administrators)
Old Idaho Penitentiary
Happy ghost hunting!
Widescreen 1.78:1 ratio, enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs is the apparition of Ghost Adventures, (hey, I'm trying) and it looks pretty good. Images are fairly sharp and clear, with nice dark blacks and good colors. That said; the bulk of the show appears in HD night-vision green. These murkier images are much sharper than old-fashioned night-vision footage, but they're still greenish and more washed-out than daytime footage. But, they're 'hella' evocative and atmospheric, which serves the show well.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio serves its purpose, spooky music never overpowers dialog, and to a certain extent stereo separation adds to the air of unease. Oddly, whenever one of the crew hears an odd sound, we never seem to be able to hear it, and their insistence on hissing "did you hear that?! Did you hear that?!" seems to eliminate any chance of us hearing anything else.
Extras include Scariest Moments (two or three minutes each) from all eight episodes, with additional interview footage setting up each bit. Zak's Gear Guide allows Bagans about four minutes to explain the few bits of gear his Ghost Adventures crew employs, including a wand that emits a light attractive to ghosts, like a supernatural bug-zapper. Deleted Scenes run about four-minutes each for four of the season's episodes, and seem to have been removed to preserve mood - and to mitigate Bagan's sometimes Ty Pennington-esque rambling - more than anything else.
Trailers for the show cap off the extras.
Even the most ardent believer will have to question whether Ghost Adventures leader Zak Bagans and crew can dig up evidence on every single episode - which they do. Nevertheless, their Blair Witch-style isolated lockdowns in super-haunted locations certainly deliver vicarious chills, thrills and spooky oodles of fun for lovers of the macabre, supernatural, paranormal, or just those who really enjoy any form of television. Are they faking it, as many claim? Who cares? It's Recommended TV, and I for one am quite eager for more late-night chills from the Ghost Adventures crew.
- 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