‘Haunted’ | Netflix Original Series Review (un)True Crime

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Summary

Haunted is a cynical attempt to spin entertainment out of real-life delusion, and the scariest thing about it is that people will let it get away with that.

Since watching all six episodes of Haunted, Netflix’s new, ostensibly factual original series, I’ve been wondering how best to ridicule it without offending any of the people involved. On the one hand, it’s full of outright rubbish, obvious embellishment, and flagrant manipulation, designed explicitly to trick and exploit people who are emotionally vulnerable or otherwise susceptible to hoary horror horseshit. But on the other hand, the one thing that all the folks who regale us with their otherworldly stories of ghosts and ghouls all share is a history of trauma, extreme stress, abuse, neglect, or some combination of the above. And while it’s all too easy to mock ridiculous mumbo-jumbo, it’s somewhat less fun to unpack the instances of very real, very human unpleasantness at the root of such delusions.

In each half-hour episode of Haunted, a storyteller settles into a handsome leather armchair in a tastefully-appointed study, and explains how they have been haunted or possessed or whatever else. Their friends and family sit around them, occasionally asking leading questions or tearfully reinforcing their outlandish reasoning and theories. This is interspersed by dramatic re-enactments brought to life by actors of wildly uneven ability and an evidently not-insignificant budget. It should come as no surprise that the fictional sequences are endlessly more believable and compelling than the real-life accounting.

The overall impression is that Haunted would have been better served as an anthology of creepy capsule vignettes. But the repeated insistence that these stories are true gives the series an additional responsibility – one which it repeatedly fails to meet. At best it’s deliberately misleading, but at worst it’s openly, proudly irresponsible, and perhaps more unforgivably reliant on ensnaring a curious audience in the simplest possible way.

There’s every chance that these stories are completely untrue, in which case Haunted is just dramatically fraudulent. But there’s just as much chance that these people believe – or have at least believed at some point – that their stories are real, in which case Haunted is a predatory betrayal of victims who have been scarred by past abuses and traumas. Even when one episode, about a woman growing up in the home of a serial killer, seems to be moving in a more authentically chilling true-crime direction, it quickly morphs into a story about a woman growing up in the home of a serial killer who was also apparently possessed by the devil and began summoning demons.

This type of pabulum is well-suited to genre fiction, but not to genre fact. Either Haunted is attempting to hoodwink an audience with a flaky veneer of authenticity, or it’s cynically peddling delusion as entertainment. Either way, the scariest thing about it is how many people will lap it up regardless.


This review is part of our #31DaysofHorror feature which is running all throughout October. Check out the other entries.

Jonathon Wilson

Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.

22 thoughts on “‘Haunted’ | Netflix Original Series Review

  • October 19, 2018 at 6:39 pm
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    This review comes off as if the reviewer has never seen these types of shows before. There’s the wide-eyed, naive, how-can-they-get-away-with-this? tone you might expect from someone who has never watched “Paranormal Witness” or “A Haunting.” Believe me, you’ve done no glorious service to the viewing public by cracking the show’s deception— *Almost all of us all know it’s fake.* Because– guess what? We know it’s FOLKLORE. There’s an equal chance that the folks you think are being exploited are actually actors as well. Or (like the owner of the Sallie House) they are getting paid a very pretty penny to embellish their own story every time they go on a new programme. I wish someone who knew more about these types of shows could have reviewed this one from a more informed point of view because some of us enjoy it on its own terms: mostly fiction.

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    • October 19, 2018 at 6:45 pm
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      If you enjoy the show on its terms, then why do you need someone more informed to review it?

      Regardless, none of this is a surprise to me; the point is the show is marketed as one thing when it’s clearly another. The fact of everyone being in the know about that doesn’t make it any less true or the show itself any less effective or the practice any less dishonest – and, let’s be frank, someone like yourself who is clearly not stupid might be able to see through that, but *plenty* of people don’t. It’s more sharing a personal annoyance than performing a “glorious service”, as you put, but I thought it deserved mentioning so I mentioned it.

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      • October 21, 2018 at 12:39 am
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        Go stay in the slaughterhouse for a couple months and explore those woods. Then write THAT story.

      • October 23, 2018 at 3:01 am
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        Will wants you to quit your job and live in the woods for some reason.

        Which tells you what you need to know about people who buy this hogwash.

      • November 24, 2018 at 7:10 pm
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        the shows hook that all this is real! common. plenty??? if a majority of ppl believe it that is insanity. because a show just comes out talking about a man who murdered about a hundred people and no police report has been made to find the victims, or the fact that after the sister moved out of the slaughter house and had a kid she thought “Well i know dads a serial killer but hes a really good math tutor, so let me have him there 5 days a week to learn” BS also no last names and they live in the very “small” area of upstate New York (pretty much the entire state) Yea my grandpas an evil serial killer who made my life a living hell and will probably kill me one day but let me run to the house and perform cpr to make sure he kills again. also 2 or 3 acres of land isn’t much they would have had neighbors close by but they forget that detail. The lady in white. turns out the victim of the story is actually a DIRECTOR OF HORROR MOVIES who said since he was a little kid he couldn’t get enough of it. oh and conveniently sees the ghost for the first time in 20 years 2 DAYS BEFORE FILMING THIS
        https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3888862/
        https://pamplinmedia.com/ttt/89-news/161078-horror-film-made-in-tigard-premieres-at-joy-cinema

        the stories would be fine alone. but the whole this is true and fake people crying is just enough. it doesn’t add to the story it just tries to validate all the BS. let me zoom in on her friend crying so it looks authentic.

        -go to town grammar nazis

  • October 20, 2018 at 8:16 am
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    The show was ok to watch until episode 6. I really wasn’t expecting to see ******* first through her tank top then in the bathtub. I mean come on. Was that really called for.

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    • October 24, 2018 at 7:06 am
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      Why are people today so prudish, the point used to be that being sexual was fine. Now it seems people want to go back to ******* Puritanism

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  • October 20, 2018 at 9:01 pm
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    Well, for me, as a lover of this type of narrated-horror, it was a good show. 4/5

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  • October 20, 2018 at 10:41 pm
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    Thanks for saying something I feel about these shows,Mr Wilson.TRUE? REALLY?Then where are the faces and figures?The first one claimed a woman murdered 2 children and then hung herself in a closet.When?ZWhat date?What town?What was her name,age, background?What were her children s names and ages?

    I’ve been a fan of horror all my life and will watch the rest of these,if mainly to acoff,but if Netflix has the gall to claim these ARE ALL TRUE STORIES,well,just the facts,ma am.Dont lie.

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    • November 18, 2018 at 7:42 am
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      Having no evidence to prove it untrue doesn’t help your cause bud.

      The guy who wrote this article is an ignoraumus. A skeptic? No. A cynic. Absolutely. Did I say stupid already? Just the opposite end of the spectrum of someone at a pulpit spewing idiocies that the world is flat and was created in seven days.

      And you Beverly, you CSI fact woman. When a toaster flies off the kitchen table and hits you in the face, you’ll be digging in the county files for the deed of the previous owner because it didn’t happen otherwise. All that info is moot. Maybe it was the suicide. Maybe it wasn’t. But what you can be certain of is that there is a world out there that you can’t see but it can see you.

      And mr writer. Don’t believe me? You can prove it to yourself. You really can. YouTube yourself using a ouija board for an hour every night for two weeks. (It’s like fishing; sometimes you don’t get “a bite” right away. I want to see you running off camera in your soiled clothing. Would love that.

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      • November 18, 2018 at 8:10 am
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        Good morning to you too!

  • October 21, 2018 at 2:36 am
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    I was appalled by episode 2 if these people are telling the truth they are sick! At this stage they have no excuse for not reporting the crime and need to at the very least be charged with destruction of evidence! They gave it away as it being totally untrue because they would be in massive legal trouble with what they have admitted to absolutely fraudulent show or those people are psychopaths!

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    • October 21, 2018 at 4:42 pm
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      This is why I stopped watching at ep 2. I was watching knowing ahead of time that these shows that claim to be true are never entirely so. But this was beyond ridiculous. It would be great if someone from law enforcement called them on their BS.

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      • October 21, 2018 at 7:08 pm
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        Snap Sue! I really enjoyed the first episode. The reenactments were a bit slick in a Hollywood horror sort of way, but not enough to put me off. The second episode p**sed me right off and I’ve stopped watching it as a result. Why haven’t they gone to the police? The whole thing is so bizarre and obviously bs.

  • October 23, 2018 at 6:59 pm
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    this show really sucks. They over dramatized everything, it make these people’s stories seem like a lie or a joke. There’s better shows out there (like ‘My Ghost Story’) that doesn’t glamorize people’s stories.

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  • October 26, 2018 at 6:38 pm
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    I just don’t understand how the events of Slaughterhouse could be true yet there’s still missing/dead bodies in the woods are around their home? No law enforcement has looked into this more and searched for these bodies?

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    • October 30, 2018 at 1:36 pm
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      That’s exactly what I’m saying

      Reply
  • October 27, 2018 at 3:09 am
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    I wanted to like this series but wow… If Ep. 2 is real, I can’t wait for an FBI investigation. Netflix may have moved into a whole new genre of reality TV. Maybe season 2 should focus on the law enforcement agencies and their investigations of these stories.

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  • October 30, 2018 at 1:07 pm
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    This show would have worked far better as a series of hour long dramatic episodes, to which the producers could have attached a “based on first hand accounts” tagline etc. As it is, if the accounts are true even in part (by which I mean the non supernatural elements of each story), it’s exploitative garbage. And I too call bullshit on episode 2. It can’t be remotely possible there is no presence of law enforcement in that story, especially after the death of the father (or maybe I don’t know how things work in podunk, back woods America). I mean, how do you film a show wherein you claim your parents murdered dozens of people, often before your eyes, and have the audacity to not mention you reported it to police, even at long last?

    Reply
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  • November 2, 2018 at 2:11 pm
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    It’s just entertainment. I think you all are over analyzing it. You like some gore, you like the horror/paranormal genre…turn your brain off and watch it. You watch plenty of other things claiming to be true but that are fiction….Blair Witch, anyone? At the end of the day, do you care what anyone believes or thinks after watching this? It’s irrelevant. I certainly dont care if Joe Blow thinks this is real or not after watching it. Was I entertained for 30 mins or not is the real issue. I was entertained.

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  • November 6, 2018 at 12:21 am
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    This show is one of the worst staged shows ever. Every reaction is recorded desperately and there are so many cuts in the lines she is saying, it wasn’t hard to click away.

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  • December 7, 2018 at 6:57 am
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    I agree with others here – if ep. 2 were true, the FBI would be beating down the doors at Netflix, demanding the full identities of the “Slaughterhouse” family interviewed.

    And Funkmaster, your credulity is hard to believe (or do you just like to get into disagreements with people online for s***s and giggles?) Don’t you think that the fact that, as mentioned, the first guest (Jason Hawkins) is a horror producer is kind of a dead giveaway that this is fake?

    Beyond either of those points, if you go to the IMDB page on “Haunted”, and look in the credits under “Full Cast & Crew” you’ll notice that the second person listed is a WRITER. Now if these were just real people sitting in this lounge telling their stories, spontaneously, and their loved ones are responding, spontaneously, to their distress, now what would they need a WRITER for?!!
    After the first episode, not knowing that Mr. Hawkins was actually in the horror business, I thought he seemed credible, but it seems, now that I know that he’s someone who works in the field, that he’s got a small amount of acting ability in addition to his producing/writing/directing experience. And then I did wonder why he didn’t try to find someone to perform an exorcism – I have friends who have had those actually work.

    But when I got to ep. 2, besides being totally incredulous at the idea that they’d never reported this to the FBI (never mind that the local police “wouldn’t believe them”: the FBI would take any such allegations very seriously, and if any of this “family” knew locations of bodies – as the “grandson” claimed to – they would definitely come out and dig there! I was absolutely unconvinced of any genuine feelings for what had happened with the women sitting there in the room. They even sang this song their demented mother sang and acted like it was really sweet to remember that. Seriously?!! Sorry, there’s no way I’m going to believe any of that was true.

    I was hoping – as I will probably keep hoping forever, given the small likelihood that anyone will ever do it – for a show with REAL ghost stories. These might not be as melodramatic as the kind of stories you see in various paranormal shows, but I think would actually be more interesting than this kind of cheap thrill BS.

    I’ve both known people who experienced paranormal occurrences and have had experienced that kind of thing myself – often with other witnesses present who also saw the same strange occurrences. I suppose the problem with the real deal is that you can rarely get a half an hour’s worth of story out of the real deal accounts None of mine would likely take more than 15 minutes at the most, but some of them were pretty creepy – including seeing the outline of a hanging body swinging back and forth on a balcony in a rainstorm at 3 AM in an old brownstone house in Richmond, VA. It was pretty damn scary, but on the other hand she didn’t follow me home when I left, either!

    Reply

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