When Jason and Grant formed TAPS - The Atlantic Paranormal Society - and brought their exploits to TV, Ghost Hunters became a huge hit for SyFy. The show followed 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 success of that series lead to a spin off entitled Ghost Hunters International, which followed an all new team of paranormal investigators who, unlike the original group, travel the world trying to figure out what's haunted and what's not. The core team is made up of four specialists - Robb Demarest, Dustin Pari, Barry Fitzgerald and Brandy Green - though they are joined in this second season by a few new recruits like Ashley Goodwin and Joe Chinn. The premise is pretty much the same as the one used in the American series, though the international locations give it a different vibe. When you consider how 'young' America is compared to a lot of other countries, if you're going to dig deep into the past to try and find evidence of hauntings and ghosts, it makes sense to think on a more global scale, and as such we get some pretty interesting episodes, most of which are shot in Europe this time around, with some action down under and in South America.
The series has been airing on Sci-Fi/SyFy since January of 2008 and this four disc collection from Image Entertainment collects the first thirteen episodes of the series' second season. The thirteen episodes that make up Ghost Hunters International: Season Two Part One, all of which were broadcast between July of 2009 and February of 2010, are spread across three DVDs in the set in the following order.
Wicklow's Gaol: The first episode takes place in Ireland where the team investigate Wicklow's Historic Gaol, one of the oldest prisons in the country. Given the location's reputation and its past and the fact that a lot of nasty stuff happened there over the years, it's a good candidate for GHI investigation and they get some interesting results.
Skeleton in the Closet: This split episode sends the team first to Bohemia in the Czech Republic to investigate Český Krumlov and then to Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland where the Manor House is reportedly haunted. Neither one of these investigations stand out - which is probably why they were split up over one episode instead of divvied up into two longer ones.
Gate to Hell: The best and most interesting episode in the set takes place in Blatce in the Czech Republic at Houska Castle, reportedly the site of a gate to Hell and a building rumored to have been used by the paranormal division of the SS during the Second World War. The history to this building is fascinating and the fact that it has what is basically an evil thrown room in the basement makes things all the more odd. Definitely the stand out episode of the set and the best location yet for the show.
Witches Castle: Another split episode sends GHI to Austria, first to Unternberg where they spend the night at Moosham Castle and then to Spittal an der Drau where they visit Schloss Porcia. Again, these were double teamed likely because the locations just aren't as active or as interesting. Worth watching? Sure, if you like the series but not one you'll go back to. Nice scenery though!
Spirits of Italy: The first destination in this episode is Fosdinovo, Italy where the crew check out Malaspina Castle, after which they head to Genoa where the ghost of Paganini is rumored to haunt the Palazzo Ducale. The investigation at Genoa is more interesting than the one is Fosdinovo but neither one yields much - the rumors of Paganini and sounds of his violin are interesting though.
Holy Ghosts: In Chile is a town called El Bosque where a former monastery is now El Bosque City Hall and the home to some interesting unexplained phenomena. After checking that out, GHI head to Valparaíso, also in Chile, where the ghosts of a few different locals are said to haunt the old Santiago Sevrin Library. Both of these are actually pretty good and the El Bosque portion probably could have been longer as it's just a really strange spot. The library is also interesting. While most of the double feature episodes are on the weak side, this one is the exception.
Hitler's Ghost: GHI head to Miramar, Argentina to explore the remains of the abandoned and dilapidated Gran Hotel Viena. Why? Because some conspiracy theorists believe that at the end of the Second World War Hitler didn't commit suicide, he instead escaped and lived out the rest of his years here. Some locals claim that his ghost can be seen on the premises. GHI gets some interesting stuff here - we won't spoil it in this review but this episode is up there with the best in this set.
Silver Shadow: The team head to La Falda, Argentina to explore the Eden Hotel and then high tail it way over to Junee, Australia to explore the grounds of Monte Cristo. Once again, we get a so-so double feature episode that doesn't yield as much in terms of results and/or scares as the longer episodes do but the history of both locations is interesting which makes it worth checking out.
Quarantine Station: Continuing in Australia, GHI head to a massive Quarantine Station on an island just a short jaunt from Sydney. Now used for corporate events, it's a huge place with a strange and somewhat sordid history of abuse to it. Some interesting results are captured.
Port Arthur Penitentiary: From Australia it's off to Port Arthur Penitentiary in, not so surprisingly, the city of Port Arthur in neighboring Tasmania. Prisons and hospitals tend to be some of the best locations, which makes sense when you think about it, and if this doesn't yield quite as much as previous prison explores have, it's still a good episode and a fascinating location to check out.
Tasmania Death Sentence: The Tasmanian adventures continue with an exploration in Hobart at the town's old Supreme Courthouse. From there, GHI heads to Batu Gajah, Malaysia to investigate some strange activity at Kellie's Castle. This episode tackles two very different locations in two very different countries with surprisingly similar results - nothing really concrete here but enough oddities and curiosities are on display that you can understand why the suspicious have their stance.
San Lucas Prison: When it's time to investigate the San Lucas Prison, the team heads on over to San Lucas Island in Costa Rica to check out the scene. The island hasn't been used as a prison in over a decade, it is now a national park, but it's past is interesting and dark, making this location ripe for paranormal activity particularly when you consider how many of the country's most notorious criminals were there when it was still operating.
The Legend of Rose Hall: The last episode of the set first find the GHI crew in Cartago, Costa Rica where creepy stuff happens at the old Duran Sanatorium before they head across the water to Montego Bay, Jamaica to explore the haunted Rose Hall Great House. Duran Sanatorium is a great location, a spooky old hospital in rough shape with some rather telling graffiti in spots - they get some great pictures during their overnight stay. The Rose Hall Great House investigation has a great back story about a witch who lived on the premises but doesn't get much in the way of evidence.
Fans of the series will know that shortly after these episodes were broadcast and in the last half of the show's second season, Robb Demarest would leave the group to be replaced with Kris Williams from the American incarnation of Ghost Hunters. Kris is a perfectly capable investigator but doesn't quite seem to share the same chemistry that Robb did with some of the other long term team members, so this is, in a way, the end of an era for the team.
The international locations make the series stand out from the American-based show and given that so much of the world is just that much older in terms of society and population growth than the United States it makes sense that there'd be more opportunity for interesting investigations to take place. Most of the show is based in Europe and the series provides a bit of travelogue footage as the investigators explore the various locations throughout the series.
This is one of those shows that skeptics will have no problems picking apart, as it's really just nigh-impossible to prove or disprove how much of what the show is legitimate or not. That said, it makes for interesting and sometimes very spooky viewing. The crew does go to some very interesting locations and each episode provides a mini-history lesson of what happened (often times this can be just as cool or even more attention-grabbing than the evidence itself). The 'reveals' at the end are always interesting and while the show is, at this point, pretty formulaic in how it plays out and how it is structured, the appeal of just maybe seeing evidence of the supernatural never really gets old. Approach the series as you would any other 'reality show' and know that parts of it are probably altered for the camera if not flat out staged, but enjoy the entertainment value that it provides and if you learn something, consider it a bonus.
Each of the episodes that make up this set are presented in their original 1.78.1 widescreen aspect ratio. The first thing some viewers are going to notice is the awful trailing that occurs during certain shots any time there is quick movement. This doesn't happen with every shot but it does happen semi-frequently in each episode, indicating that it might be related to one of the cameras being used - it's annoying and distracting and it takes away from the show quite a bit. If you can look past that, the episodes look as you'd expect them too - crisp and clear during the daylight, gritty and dark once the lights go out and the night vision cameras are used but man oh man are those trailing problems distracting.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, there are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. Most, though not all, of the dialogue is pretty clear and there's some goof left to right channel separation up front. Subs would have been helpful for those countless scenes where someone is speaking in hushed tones or whispers, but aside from that there's nothing to complain about here
Each of the first three discs contains a static menu that offers episode selection, but there are no actual supplements on those discs at all - the fourth disc, however, has got some interesting material on it in the form of a ton of deleted/extended scenes taken from the various episodes. You can choose to watch them individually or all in a row, and here's what you'll find:
Dustin Alone In The Old Prison / Pub Outting At Fitzgerald's / Barry & Ashley In The Prince's Quarters / Ascent To The Attic / Barry & Brandy In The Cellar / Joe & Ashley In The Torture Room / The Skeleton / Toni's Room / Dustin Makes Dinner / Joe & Ashley In The Torture Chamber / Extended Reveal EVP Response / The Englishman Speaks Spanish / The Typewriter / Analysis Footsteps / Brandy & Ashley Provoke / A Flash Of Light / Paul & Joe In The Original Homestead / Up In The Carriage House / Post Office Apparition / Shadows In The Hospital / Joe & Paul In The Penitentiary / The Rocking Chair / Courthouse Thermal Sweep / Dustin In The Clock Tower / Extended Reveal Satanic Symbols / The Dungeon / The EMF Spike
Ghost Hunters International: Season Two Part One pretty much sticks to the formula that has made the original series and its various spin offs as successful as they are and doesn't deviate from it - so don't expect this to change your mind if you're not already a fan. With that said, there are some really interesting episodes in this set and the fourth disc of extra content is a nice addition to the set. If you can get past the screwy transfer issues, you'll enjoy what's here - but those transfer issues are hard to look past. Rent it.
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.