28 Days Haunted review – the ghost-hunting show that will make you roll your eyes like never before
Do homemade helmets really give you special access to demons? Is there such a thing as ‘a sensitive’? This occasionally tasteless, OTT paranormal show seems to think so
Looking back, those halcyon days of Living TV’s Most Haunted were a tepid treat. That show, very much a product of its time, had spooky sleepovers; celebrities screaming when brushing past walls/cobwebs/anything; showbizzy mediums claiming to be conversing with the spirits of dead people via their own deceased spirit guides; witches, light orbs and malevolent spirits, all under the eerie green glow of night vision cameras. These days, like everything else, ghost-busting is a much more serious and solemn business, and in the hands of American paranormal investigators and social experiments, it is as supersized as you might expect.
You could say that 28 Days Haunted (Netflix) is the hold-my-beer of spirit-hunting TV shows. It sends three teams of researchers to separate, and I use this term loosely, “haunted” locations, in Colorado, North Carolina, and Connecticut, in order to “prove” the theory – I am going to run out of quotation marks here – that it takes 28 days to fully pierce the veil between the living and the dead. It is the kind of series that is made to be shown in small chunks on Gogglebox, where viewers will either hide behind sofa cushions or roll their eyes so hard that they’re in danger of spinning.
I’m in the latter category, with no disrespect intended to viewers who believe that transistor radios and homemade Daft Punk-style helmets give these people special access to demons and restless spirits. The teams are driven to their haunted houses/sites of special interest while wearing blindfolds, for no clear reason. “Not being able to see is an added layer of stress for us,” says one, to which one can only reply with the first of many “duh”s. The second comes very quickly. “It’s definitely got a story to tell, I can feel that from out here,” says Amy, who is “a sensitive” (apparently the word has transitioned from adjective to noun). How she can feel that there is a story to be uncovered in a haunted house chosen by TV researchers to feature in a show about ghosts is beyond my abilities, but I guess I’m not psychic.
They all settle in for 28 days of testing, communing with the undead and generally freaking each other out in the dark. There is a lot of light-flickering and radio-transmitted messages that only the person wearing headphones can hear, chats about “oppressive energy”, and furniture being thrown around, off-camera. We hear a “blood-curdling scream”, though it could also be that the door hinges need some WD40. At one point, the team of Jereme and Brandy stage a wake for the living Brandy, in order for her to better connect with what might be a malevolent spirit. “I’m really nervous about the coffin experiment,” she says, before she gets into a coffin. What she sees when she is in there is a woman. “Something has happened to her due to a male.” What are the odds?
I suppose being sceptical about this is shooting fish in a barrel. If you are of a cynical mindset, it isn’t hard to pick it apart at every turn – spirits can give you their first name, but not their surname, apparently, which is terribly inconvenient. But without being a fun sponge, and regardless of its “scientific” motives, is there a chance that 28 Days Haunted is so over the top and woo-woo that it tips into being entertainment? Kind of, in a tales-around-the-campfire kind of way. It is jumpy enough at times to serve as Halloween fodder, if you’re really desperate for some hauntings and you’ve seen all the good films more than once. There is a more questionable side, though. In one of the locations, the spooky activity is linked to the victims of a rape and two murders from 1970. There are hints that the spirits have guided them towards new information, connecting those killings to another cold case. Something about that left me a little cold, but perhaps not for the same reasons.