featuring: Yvette Fielding, David Wells, Ciaron O’Keefe, Gordon Smith, and Richard Felix
producer: Karl Beattie
595 minutes (15) 2006
widescreen ratio 16:9
Contender DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Andrew Hook
I’ve only recently become familiar with this long-running unreality TV show, but had been aware of it on a peripheral level particularly with the exposure of the show’s previous regular psychic, Derek Acorah, as a ‘fake’. Having caught up with a few of the episodes on television it’s interesting to compare some of the previous series with this one, which collates the six episodes of season seven, and features new medium, Gordon Smith, in accompaniment with David Wells who has taken part in previous investigations.
With Derek being fed ‘false’ information that he then regurgitated during the show as coming from his spirit guide, it seems that Most Haunted has decided to go back to basics in an attempt to become less theatrical and therefore more believable. In a way I feel sorry for Derek, his actions seemed more of a consequence of being part of the growing Most Haunted phenomenon, constantly incited by presenter Yvette Fielding with almost manipulative provocation, rather than a wilful attempt to subvert an audience. If you’re prepared to make the assumption that spiritualist mediums can tap into the unknown, then whether they’re flamboyant like Derek or quieter voices such as David and Gordon the difference should make no odds. Either you believe them, or you don’t.
What works with the arrival of Gordon, however, is the partnership immediately formed with David Wells. Previously, Derek and David were hardly in the same shot never mind working together, but Gordon and David appear to compliment each other, which adds immeasurably to the feel of the show and the way that information is presented. David is quietly spoken and Gordon’s manner is precise and considered, seemingly less caught up with the trappings of spiritual jargon. Together they give a certain gravitas to the proceedings. This inevitably adds to the show’s interest.
So, what do we have here? A TV show which attempts to find ghostly happenings by depositing the mediums and crew in supposedly haunted places late at night, turning off the lights, and seeing what occurs. This series contains the usual bangs, floating orbs, and séance activity as the previous series have, and with David and Gordon playing off each other the audience reaction is much more sympathetic. Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, this series does provide some thought provoking insights into the way mediums, and possibly spectral activity, work.
As a sceptic myself I’m much more interested in the idea that the mediums are actually picking up their information from the crew rather than the spirit world. As the mediums connections corroborate some of the historical fact, it has to be wondered whether they’ve just done their research or whether they’ve got their information telepathically or spiritually. Both of which make the programme worth watching. However, much of the action conveniently appears off camera, which makes you wonder why they’re using handheld devices rather than having fixed cameras set up in every room, covering all the angles. Maybe it’s because without the amateur effect of a dozen people shitting themselves in the dark there wouldn’t be much of a programme at all.
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In this series, the locations visited range from Castle Keep in Newcastle, with all its years of history, to the Granada Studio Coronation Street set, apparently haunted by a man who used to work there. One episode ponders on the strange death of the man who might have originally written The Hound Of The Baskervilles, later attributed to Arthur Conan Doyle. Yet, in none of the episodes do we see any actual convincing physical manifestations, and in this manner season seven reflects all the previous shows. Will the Most Haunted crew ever capture anything definitively on film? Probably not…
The crew are a mixed bunch: when series producer Karl Beattie is in front of the camera, he looks constantly distracted and unfocussed, often irritatingly so. Presenter Yvette Fielding’s vocabulary seems to exist mostly of “What the hell was that?!” said in a sudden loud voice. Stuart, the lighting man, makes a habit of going into places alone, challenging spirits, and then scaring himself silly when he hears something. Maybe the two mediums are the calmest because they know exactly what is going on? And that applies whether you think them actors or genuinely gifted with spiritual talent.
Ultimately, whatever you might think of the validity of the experiences, of the noises, supposedly thrown objects, touches, and table tipping activity, this is a television show and not a controlled experiment to seriously locate spectral activity. The team are masters of overstatement. “That was amazing!” tends to translate as “Not much happened at all.” Historian, Richard Felix, describes them being “showered with nails” in one of the extras, when about four or five nails had appeared to be thrown. Certainly more amusing than genuinely scary, the Most Haunted crew fail to add or subtract from the afterlife argument, but it’s worth watching just to see how they go about creating a cult of expectation, which may or may not have any basis in the spiritual. Certainly not everything that happens can be easily explained.
The extras to each episode are around 20 minutes long and are just as useful as the main programme. For lovers of Most Haunted this will be a necessary addition to their DVD collections, but if you’re coming to the show for the first time then I would recommend catching the series on television first. Warning: it can be addictive, even if nothing is actually happening!