Friday, October 28, 2005

TV PREVIEW: A Haunting Arrives!

Between the world we see

And the things we fear

There are doors.

When they are opened...

Nightmares become reality.

These are the true stories of the innocent and the unimaginable.

That's the spooky opening narration for the brand new paranormal TV series debuting on the Discovery Channel tonight. The series is called A Haunting and the show's first episode, "Hell House" starts things off. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the program with its associate producer, Joseph Maddrey, who also happens to be the author of the outstanding 2004 study of horror movies, Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film.

: I'm really looking forward to this series. How would you describe the mission of A Haunting in depicting "true" paranormal cases?"

: Our mission, first and foremost, is to scare the audience. The true stories depicted in each episode were chosen with that goal in mind. As we go into production on future episodes, we are open to suggestions about any real-life hauntings that meet this criteria.

Many of the cases in first season episodes are locally famous, and have inspired books or short segments on other television series, but that is not a requirement.

MUIR: Now what would you say is the approach on A Haunting? How is the production looking at these cases?

MADDREY: We’re trying to strike a delicate balance between documentary and drama. On one hand, it can be very difficult to create dramatic tension – which relies so much on pacing and acting – within a format that uses narration and interviews to convey information.

On the other hand, these shows have the potential to be scarier specifically because we are continually reminded that this is someone’s real life story. Many of the participants in these episodes agreed to be interviewed because they want others to know that hauntings are real. They believe that a program like this may help people in similar situations to cope with the unexplainable. We are giving them a voice.

MUIR: How many episodes can we look forward to in the first season?

MADDREY: Our initial run is six episodes, but we are already in production of ten more, and expect that they will follow closely on the heels of the first six.

The premiere episode, “Hell House,” airs at 10PM Eastern Standard Time on Friday, October 28, on The Discovery Channel.

MUIR: Tell me about your first installment, "Hell House." What can the viewer expect? Can you set up the story for us?

MADDREY: The promo reads: "
In this world, there is real evil. It lurks in the darkest shadows, as well as the most unassuming places. It wears many masks, to deceive us and ultimately to destroy us.

When Bonnie and her family buy a 19th century farmhouse in rural Connecticut, they sense that they are being watched. After two of the children are physically attacked by unseen entities, the family contacts a world-renowned team of psychic investigators – to find out what they are living with, and what it wants from them.

As the strange occurrences become increasingly violent, Bonnie develops a psychic connection with someone from the past… and investigators witness the escalation of the haunting from obsession to possession."

I’m reluctant to give away any of the story points. I will say that it features Lorraine Warren, one of the lead investigators of The Amityville Horror, and a very down-to-earth family. One of the things that I like the most about the series is that each episode presents different points of view on the paranormal. The victims and the investigators each have unique perspectives that inform their reactions to what’s going on. Likewise, no two hauntings are exactly alike.

MUIR: How does your literary experience with studying horror films help you make A Haunting a more full and satisfying experience for the viewer, do you think?

MADDREY: As much as I hate to draw attention away from myself, I can’t take credit for the end results. This series is the result of a huge collaborative effort at New Dominion Pictures, with series producer Larry Silverman at the helm. He is supported by a dedicated team of writers, directors, editors, cast and crew members, etc. There are simply too many people to name. In the future, I’d like to draw individual attention to some of the people whose hard work is particularly evident in the finished episodes.

MUIR: I'll take you up on that offer. Watch out! Now let me ask, have you had any bizarre happenings on the set while filming these stories? Do you believe in the supernatural?

MADDREY: There are always bizarre happenings during production, but nothing (so far) that I would characterize as supernatural. I will say that this series has prompted several staff members to think twice whenever anything
unusual occurs.

During a recent on-camera interview with a psychic in New York, our camera crew experienced a power failure at a significant point during the interview -- in a significant part of the interview location. They checked the breakers, but found that this was not the cause of the power failure.

Since I began working on this series, a lot of people have asked me if I believe in the supernatural, and I always respond the same way: Do you want the short answer or the long answer? The short answer is “Yes,” though I’m not sure I’d use the word supernatural. I have never seen a ghost myself, but it’s a big world. Since I began working on this series, a lot of people that I know personally have shared their own ghost stories. I have to admit that a hell of a lot of people claim to have had supernatural experiences and, in nearly every case, I believe that they believe what they are telling me.

This sounds like a fun series. I grew up with One Step Beyond, the paranormal series featuring dramatizations of strange events and hosted by the late, great John Newland, so I love a good, creepy "based on a true story" scare. Tonight at 10:00 pm (est) on the Discovery Channel, let's gather round the TV with some popcorn and hot cocoa and take a gander. And thanks to Joe Maddrey for introducing the series. Hopefully we'll get to chat with him again soon.

Here's a link to information on an upcoming episode entitled "Cursed."

And if you miss A Haunting's "Hell House" premiere tonight, you'll have plenty of other opportunities to catch it during this Halloween weekend. It airs again Saturday at 5:00 pm. Sunday at 7:00 pm and again at 11:00 pm; and then on Halloween (Monday) at 1:00 pm.

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