The specific setting does very little to make Haunted: Latin America stand out from the two previous installments of Netflix’s cliched exercise in charlatan garbage.
This review of Haunted: Latin America is spoiler-free, not that you can necessarily spoil these things anyway.
The last time I wrote about Netflix’s Haunted, I received a surprising number of hilarious passive-aggressive dares that included but were not limited to using a ouija board for two hours straight every night and filming it so a bizarre commenter could watch me soil myself. Someone else suggested that it might be in my best interests to get raped by a ghost, but I’m happy to report I remain unviolated by horny spirits. I raise this because it’s important, in a roundabout way, since it explains why Netflix keep returning to this shallow well of cynical, exploitative content — if people believe in shape-shifting demons, ghosts, and other mumbo jumbo enough to actively wish me harm for making fun of it, then they’re certainly going to be inclined to swallow all this show’s nonsense wholesale. Thus, here we are.
Haunted: Latin America is just Haunted but not in English, basically. I must admit I had slightly higher hopes for this installment since there was a chance it might mine the Latin America subtitle for some genuine cultural specificity and resonance, but the first episode is about a haunted house and the second is about a haunted doll — it could be set anywhere, frankly. All that leaves is the same played-out, ridiculous format, unchanged from the first two seasons.
For those not in the know, that format is as follows: Someone who has had “experiences” sits down with their family and friends to discuss whatever supernatural event they were besieged by, while frequent dramatic reenactments pop up to provide context and low-budget spooks. That’s it, really — there are only five episodes in Haunted: Latin America, down from the usual six, and each, except for the premiere, runs for about 30 minutes. One assumes it’s so brief because absolutely no evidence is supplied to even attempt to justify any of the claims. There is never any friction in the retelling because everyone present is totally on-board with the story; sometimes they tear up as they contribute their own bits, but mostly they just nod along as the storyteller continues to lace an ostensibly true story with hysterically overwrought statements like, “The worst of the nightmare was yet to come.”
My problem with Haunted has always been that it fronts as truth. Everyone sensible knows the stories are made-up, but the insistence that they’re real accounts gives the whole thing a frustrating air of ridiculous charlatanism. The re-enactments are derivative and cheap, but they’re intermittently decent enough that the show might work as a horror anthology. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that if these people are lying they’re being openly manipulative, and if they’re not they’re in need of genuine help that they’re certainly not getting from Netflix. That’s too uncomfortable of a reality for me to grapple with in my lighthearted entertainment coverage. As I’ve learned over the years, anyone who falls for this certainly isn’t going to be swayed by me, and everyone else finds the show as ridiculous as I do. There’s nothing about this new version that changes any of that.