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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Southern Haunts
Southern Haunts
Other // Unrated // October 1, 2005
List Price: $15.00 [Buy now and save at Southernhaunts]
Review by Preston Jones | posted February 13, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Of the many varied regions that make up the North American continent, few lend themselves better to the notion of ghosts and the supernatural than the deep South - enter filmmaker Zac Adams' series Southern Haunts. A TV show created, from what I can tell, for broadcast on various PBS stations throughout the South, in order to spend time investigating the spectral legends of the South. Adams is quick to point out that like some gotcha reality shows, Southern Haunts is pegged more as a historical show with "a supernatural twist." Quoth the Southern Haunts Web site: "We strive for interesting, compelling stories that not only have ghosts, but are also historical. Whether it's a Civil War battlefield, an old mansion or plantation, each segment contains an actual story. Our goal is to educate our viewers with these stories and give them a choice (as) to whether they believe the legends or not."

So does Adams succeed? To a large degree, yes - the DVD contains two half-hour episodes, narrated by the golden-throated Charlie Chase, which function as ersatz travelogues about places that just happen to have haunting stories. Adams has a healthy selection of talking heads - academics, tour guides and eyewitnesses - who elaborate upon these often centuries-old legends and stories. Half the fun of this concept is the idea of these stories and beliefs being passed down from generation to generation; ghosts from the Civil War era roaming about the halls of rambling mansions and verdant fields certainly induces a chill and those who share their experiences with Adams certainly seem to relish sharing.

The first episode centers on the Carnton Mansion in Franklin, Tennessee, a Civil War landmark considered by many to be the most haunted house in Tennessee as well as taking viewers to a haunted bed and breakfast where a five-year-old girl died; many witnesses say that the deceased girl still lingers on the premises, particularly at night. The second episode travels to Franklin, Kentucky (what is it with towns named Franklin and ghosts?) and the Octagon House, where a reported 20 Civil War spirits dwell as well as stopping in Bell, Tennessee where Adams focuses on the story of a man killed by a vicious ghost known as the "Bell Witch." At 30 minutes, each of these episodes moves briskly, conveying information in a concise, compelling manner, despite the tendency of Adams' interview subjects to occasionally take on the air of, say, Jon Voight's character in U-Turn. Southern Haunts would probably make for interesting Halloween viewing, but only really merits a once-over.

The DVD

The Video:

Presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, Southern Haunts is far from reference quality but does its job - being unfamiliar with the show prior to viewing the DVD, I can only assume this visual presentation is as it was when originally aired on various PBS stations. The episodes appear to have been filmed on video, which feature some scant noise and graininess in some scenes, but most of what's here are oddly framed interview segments that look pretty clear.

The Audio:

Southern Haunts certainly won't be a demo disc for audiophiles - PCM stereo is all that's on board although Charlie Chase's ominous baritone has much more presence than the rest of the audio components, full of punchy bass. The interview footage is heard clearly, without distortion or dropout, and the occasional sound effect and Cody Westheimer's slightly overwrought score both fill in nicely.

The Extras:

The lone bonus feature is a promo for the show.

Final Thoughts:

Southern Haunts is a enjoyable distraction that might appeal to those who devour ghost stories, but as a travel series goes, it leans too heavily upon the supernatural. Filmmaker Zac Adams has unearthed some interesting stories which are certainly fascinating, but the dearth of bonus material is a real shame - a disc such as this cries out for at least a director interview or commentary, so that you might understand what compelled Adams to tackle such a unique project. Rent it.

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