Ghost Adventures Season 5:
Ghost Adventures, featuring laconic paranormal investigator Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin, teleports its way onto your screen in this latest 3-disc collection. Every shadowy form, orb, unexplained thump, demonic growl and voice-from-beyond is here in terrifying glory for you to enjoy ... forever, and ever, and ever. The show is called Ghost Adventures - a tip for you skeptics out there - but what it may lack in plausibility, it makes up for in fun, which is what adventures are all about.
The adventures look like this, Bagans and crew travel to a haunted location to interview those who work there, or have otherwise been involved in spectral goings-on. After setting up the situation, Bagans, Groff and Goodwin are 'locked down' in the location for an overnight adventure ... er ... investigation. The crew sets up electronic detection devices in areas where the most bumps-in-the-night occur to see what evidence they can capture. Not wanting to come up empty handed, the investigators then attempt to provoke the ghosts into showing their cards. With the help of liberal interperetations, they always come up with some evidence, and depending on how succeptible you the viewer are, they almost always generate a subtle scare or two. Ghost Adventures plies three trades while investigating the most haunted structures in America: It creates tension as it throttles the found-footage motif, it creates a few chills by asking you to use your imagination, and it makes you a little giddy with bro-tastic attitude.
Zak Bagans, sporting spiky black hair, laid-back-cool black clothes, and some serious muscles, slow-talks his way through each set-up. He's the guy everyone likes wherever he goes; sensitive, (for the ladies) affable and funny, (for the guys) and ripped-arm-having, silver-phoenix-on-a-black-tee-shirt-wearing (for the bros). Fans of the show know how Zak, Aaron, and Nick often bark challenges at recalcitrant ghosts in darkened rooms: Zak's demeanor is so dialed in, I keep expecting him to shout, "Do you even HAUNT, bro?!"
Season five features overnight 'lock-downs' in the usual grouping of locations, haunted honky-tonks, inactive insane asylums, horrifying hospitals and more. The ante is upped in Season 5, however with new detection devices, way more historical information, and lots of input from local paranormal investigators. Which is to say the motif may be wearing a little thin, so why not pump up the jams? More-lengthy set ups for each location add the most value to the show, with a good ten-minutes or so each episode devoted to explaining the location's past, some of its historical significance, and more detailed accounts of previous incidents.
The bad news is that the other modifications to the show undermine its credibility, and from a skeptic's point of view, there isn't enough credibility to begin with. Electronic sensors may very well detect paranormal activity, or maybe not. Each gadget is explained briefly, then set in place; buzzers in hallways, different types of cameras, temperature sensors and more. One episode even features a first: a teleconference between three haunted locations, designed to goad ghosts who have a beef with the three investigators. The hope? That the phantoms travel through the Internet to harass the crew. And in fact it works, but ultimately it is up to the viewer to believe the results that Bagans so earnestly sells.
The crew gets tons of mileage from EVP recordings, analyzing the white noise recorded after somebody asks the spirits a question. Weird sounds are judged to be communications, and each spectral statement is subtitled to help with the interpretations. The thing is, scratchy exhortations to "kill Aaron" for instance, become simple clicks and gargles if you listen with your eyes closed. It's only the constant reinforcement of subtitles that make these noises seem to be words. Close your eyes while you watch and tell me what you think! The inclusion of indigenous investigators doesn't help either, as most appear to be seriously young amateurs with tons of enthusiasm and little in the way of credentials other than black clothing. And hats.
Ghost Adventures Season 5, while not a patch on serious examinations of supernatural phenomena, is still a lot of fun. Yes, it's not very plausible that Bagans and crew could turn up real evidence every single time they spend but one night in a haunted location, and trumping up what amounts to tape-hiss into communications from beyond is suspect at best. But if you come in simply for enjoyment, and turn all the lights off, you can't help but buy into Bagans' brolicious enthusiasm, and Goodwin and Groff's beleaguered tribulations. Fans of mild spookiness will still get a kick out of these Ghost Adventures and should definitely Rent It.
Episodes this time around are: Hales Bar Marina and Dam, Kentucky Slave House, Tooele Hospital, Loretta Lynn Plantation House, Ashmore Estates, Mizpah Hotel, Old Town San Diego, Winchester Mystery House, Lizzie Borden House, Letchworth Village, Return to Virginia City, and Rocky Point Manor.
The 1.78:1 widescreen image is DVD standard, free from artifacts and other digital glitches. The images are, by nature, not all that fantastic, when it comes to all of the night vision footage, but that is to be expected. No complaints.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Sound is serviceable and solid, and those scratchy EVP recordings come through loud and clear. The crew even uses a white noise generator to help drum up some audio evidence. It sounds as lovely as you'd expect.
This Travel Channel 3-disc DVD set comes in a standard keepcase with a flipper. Extras, however, are non-existent.
Ghost Adventures Season 5 is more of what you expect from Zak Bagans and crew. Haunted locations are subject to investigations in the form of overnight lock-downs and lots of electronic doohickeys. The evidence is suspect, but the fun is earnest and sincere. Spend some lock-down time with Bagans as he yells at ghosts, and enjoy a few mild chills that might be real nice on a hot summer night. Rent 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