Review: GHOST WARS
Here is a TV show that not only flew under the radar. Ghost Wars hijacked the Millennium Falcon, activated lightspeed and THEN flew under the radar. I had never heard of it until recently when I accidentally stumbled across the trailer on Youtube. And since I had never heard of the show, and with that title, I almost didn't watch the trailer. To be honest, the title Ghost Wars will probably turn a lot of people off. However, I decided to give the trailer a shot, and to my surprise, not only did it have Vincent D´Onofrio and Meat Loaf in it, but it also looked pretty fun, and quite bonkers. And that was enough to make me check out the first episode which premiered on SYFY on October 5.
Ghost Wars takes place in the remote Alaskan island town of Port Moore, where we get to meet young outcast Roman (Avan Jogia, ABC´s Twisted), who, since childhood, has had the ability to communicate with the dead, which has labeled him a “freak” by the town locals.
And with no sympathy from anyone except for the town priest, Father Dan Carpenter (D´Onofrio), Port Moore´s sheriff, Sam Perkins (Tim Guinee, Bones, Netflix´s The Punisher), and his one and only friend, Maggie (Elise Gatien, UnREAL, iZombie), who just happens to be dead, Roman is fed up and ready to leave. But as he is on the bus on the way out of town and towards a new life, a freak earthquake strikes town, resulting in an accident which leaves all the passengers on the bus dead. All except for Roman. And since the mainland-connected bridge -- which also is the only way off the island -- got destroyed in the earthquake, he is now stranded in Port Moore. But that is not his only problem: the town is all of a sudden overrun by ghosts and paranormal forces that are leaving a trail of dead bodies.
Let me start off by saying that I´m happy to see that SYFY is producing other content than what they are usually associated with. I won't go into specific titles, but I think most of you know what I'm referring to. And while those titles can be fun and charming, they are not for everyone. But with last years brilliant Channel Zero: Candle Cove I started to look at SYFY in a whole new light. Keep in mind, though, that this is no Channel Zero. Whereas that show is an extremely well-written and thought-provoking piece of art, Ghost Wars takes some pretty generic ideas, throws them in a big pot and mixes it all together. We have seen it all before; the small town misfit, the narrow-minded locals, the protagonist stuck in a location with no way out, the supernatural threat, etc, etc. Also, some of the CGI ghosts look really dated.
But does that make it a bad show? The answer is: No, it doesn´t. What Ghost Wars lacks in originality, it makes up for in entertainment and atmosphere. The beautiful, remote locations and the fact that the inhabitants of Port Moore are stranded on an island that is cut off from -- and with no way to contact -- the outside world, gives the show an almost apocalyptic feeling to it. The cinematography by Thomas Burstyn, who has worked on shows like Hell on Wheels and The 4400, is nothing less than gorgeous and adds a cinematic look which captures the haunting beauty of the isolated island. This also makes it look way more expensive than it probably is. Add to that some solid performances from both familiar and, for me, unfamiliar faces. Vincent D´Onofrio is enjoyable as always and plays Father Carpenter in a way that only he can -- the D´Onofrio-way. Carpenter is likable and feels trustworthy, but at the same time, he also feels like a person who would not think twice to snap your neck if you double-crossed him. Imagine if Daredevil´s Kingpin would leave his life of crime to study theology. His character also acts like some kind of guardian to Roman, who is excellently portrayed by Avan Jogia, a young actor who I've not seen much from before, but that I will definitely keep an eye on. Roman is the character that a lot of us probably identifies with the most in this show. The misunderstood misfit who never seems to catch a break, no matter how hard he tries. He is constantly being hassled and bullied by Doug (Meat Loaf), a bigoted resident of Port Moore who wouldn´t hesitate to gather some of his like-minded friends for a good old-fashioned lynching. As you can imagine, being Roman isn´t easy.
One of the best performances comes from Canadian actress Luvia Petersen (Continuum) in her role as Val McGrath-Dufresne, Port Moore´s tough, take-no-shit mayor, who is married to the town doctor, Marilyn (Kristin Lehman, The Killing) with whom she has two children. The way that she goes from loving mother and wife to a total authoritarian badass is a joy to watch. Another good performance is from Tim Guinee as the sympathetic Sheriff Sam Perkins; one of few people who feels genuine and actually treats Roman like a human being. Though, who knows? He might have ulterior motives for being so nice to him.
There's also hints to a research facility located on the island, being connected to the earthquake and the mass hauntings. And that wouldn't be the first time a big corporation was responsible for the supernatural mayhem, right? As is typical with a lot of shows and movies that takes place in small communities, you get the feeling that there´s a lot of secrets buried under the surface, just waiting for someone to scratch it and let them out. And judging by what I saw in the trailer someone will, and the shit will most definitely hit the fan.
Ghost Wars is streaming over at SYFY.com