A few years back SciFi Channel changed its name to Syfy. They thought it better reflected the diverse nature of the network. Going forward, I think they should change it to Spook Central because the paranormal shows are beginning to out number the science fiction shows on the network.
Syfy’s current schedule includes Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Destination Truth, Haunted Collector, and Fact or Faked. Now, they’ve added two new shows to the line-up, School Spirits and Haunted Highway. Though both have things that go bump in the night at the core, they’re very different animals.
School Spirits is a reenactment series about ghostly encounters on campus. Each episode is a mixture of straight-to-camera confessionals and scenes recreated by actors. Syfy says the stories are all true and if they are, the people behind the stories are lucky to be alive.
In one episode, the girls of a sorority house are driven to the edge of insanity by an angry force that resides in the basement. The second episode details the ghostly visits of a hanged man in a dorm room and the students attempts to capture the being on tape.
The series is darker and more atmospheric than the other genre shows on the channel. Because of the reenactments, it plays out more like a mini-horror movie with plenty of spooky special effects and monstrous make-ups. The series takes you right up to the edge of being melodramatic but wisely knows when to pull back and let your imagination take over. Definitely not the show to watch if you’re moving into an old frat house in the fall.
Haunted Highway is more in the mode of Destination Truth. Jack Osbourne takes you on a road trip to hunt down the truth behind a variety of local monster legends.The hook to this series is that it’s just two people recording all they see and hear. No camera crews, no scripts. And while this loose feeling adds to the tension, it also makes the series kind of messy.
After watching Jack and partner Dana search for the Bear Lake Beast, I was overcome with Blair Witch Project flashbacks. Shaky camera work and nightvision are the hallmarks of shows like these, but Haunted Highway goes out of it’s way to prove it’s a two-man job. Numerous times, we’re shown footage of the ground, or the camera sweeping past a landscape as it’s set up. They even question the setups before starting their interviews and it all feels forced.
And, like all of the other shows in this vein, they always come up empty. Darn that Bear Lake Beast, guess he’s just camera shy.
If you can get past the production style, Haunted Highway is worth watching for the scenery and the local histories. Having grown up with legends of the Jersey Devil, it’s fun to hear the stories of monsters that have been scaring kids for years in different parts of the country.
Haunted Highway airs Tuesdays at 10:00, School Spirits airs Wednesdays at 10:00, all on Syfy.