Perspectives in Para-media: Haunted Encounters - Face to Face

Medium: Television
Network: Bio
Currently Airing: Fridays at 10:00 PM EST
Synopsis: Paranormal investigative team, the Paranormal Syndicate, explores haunted locations.

Perhaps one of the most annoying constants in paranormal television is the very thing that makes it compelling to broad audiences: The infernal, never-ending action. While real-world ghost hunters know that investigations are all-too-often lonely affairs of talking to oneself in the dark of the night, with paltry evidence to show for it, one would never know it from watching these para-reality shows. Based solely on what audiences are fed by broadcast networks, every investigation provides a plethora of hard-to-refute evidence and nearly nonstop thrills.

Unsurprisingly, this para-myth is perpetuated yet again in the Bio Channel’s newest offering, Haunted Encounters: Face to Face, which follows the adventures of the Paranormal Syndicate team, including lead investigator Daniel Hooven, technical specialist Helmey Kramer, case manager Jordan Murphy, and psychic Chelsea Damali.

Only one episode has aired at the time of this writing, and already the usual scenery-chewing (mostly by the cartoonish Murphy), manufactured thrills, overreactions, and the declaration of unproven theory as straight-faced fact (“Lizzie Borden – 100 percent – is in this house!”). Not helping things is the inclusion of some concerning elements, including risky solo investigation, unnecessary whispering sure to confound audio review, and knee-jerk conclusions contributing to easy skepticism.

Although the Paranormal Syndicate serves up a pretty run-of-the-mill viewing experience, they do bring a few things to the para-reality table, with mixed results. Most notable is the presence of Captain, a canine investigator whom Kramer claims to have specially trained to identify anomalous electromagnetic energy. He is recognized as a full-fledged member of the team and is considered their most sensitive investigative tool. (No word on how their team psychic feels about this.)

Also entertaining (if not eye-roll-inducing) is Hooven’s trademark “Ripple in Time” method, which involves playacted (loose) reenactments of past events – complete with basic costume flourishes and props – at the location in order to prompt a response from resident entities. Theoretically, it could invite some interesting results without having to employ the similar but more controversial method of provoking spirits with challenges or taunts, but as presented in the first episode, which featured investigations at the Lizzie Borden house in Fall River, MA and The Silent Theater in Los Angeles, CA, it just looked and felt silly.

In addition, the Paranormal Syndicate also introduces a customized real-time EVP detector referred to as “Pandora’s Box” (a slightly sinister, though not altogether unamusing appellation), which does nothing to reject the para-TV trope of multiple, easily-obtained, class-A quality EVPs that not only provide immediate response to the posed question, but that can be heard and identified in the field through the tiny recorder speaker. Yeah, that’s exactly how it works.

All in all, Haunted Encounters: Face to Face is innocuous entertainment that will only appeal to the most devoted fans of the genre; for everyone else, it’s really nothing more than another lackluster float in the seemingly-endless parade of para-reality television.

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