-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-
Ghost Towns series two|
cast: Derek Acorah, Daniella Westbrook, and Angus Purden
director: Tom Cohen
700 minutes (15) 2006
Contender DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Derek Acorah. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he is a complete and utter
cunt. A failed professional footballer turned 'medium', Acorah was outed by The Daily
Mirror when he was shown on camera claiming to be possessed by the spirits of people
who were not only fictitious and planted beforehand by the journalist but in fact had
names that were anagrams of 'faker Derek' and 'Derek lies'. In response to these revelations,
Living TV gave him a number of spin-off series from
Ghost Towns being one of them.
Clearly, on one level Derek Acorah's Ghost Towns is morally reprehensible. The show
encourages a belief in a weird version of the afterlife wherein people's souls can hang
around after they die, and in which there is clearly a heaven and a hell. Living TV and
Acorah make money by exploiting these beliefs and feeding the fears of the more vulnerable
and uneducated members of our society and, as a result, there is a distinct whiff of
exploitation that hangs over this whole programme. However, on another level, Ghost
Towns is just a bit of fun. Unlike John Edwards, Acorah is more interested in contacting
old ghosts who happen to be in a particular place rather than the relatives of his audience
and, given that the places he visits are largely commercial properties, it's also pretty
clear that the people being filmed are using Acorah to drum up business just as much as
he's using them.
The format for Ghost Towns is simple, Acorah and his team (including the famously
septum-free coke-guzzler Daniella Westbrook) travel round towns such as Stafford and Blackpool.
They set up a big trailer outside which people queue to tell ghost stories to camera and then
the team go off to investigate things further. The implication being that they arrive in
town and then meet a volunteer at random. They then visit three different properties and are
filmed with a low-light camera as Acorah goes into trances, throws himself about and puts on
funny voices. Then the team turn up on someone's doorstep seemingly at random and do a cold
Having never watched Most Haunted, Acorah's performance quite amused me, initially. The
weird camerawork and Acorah's grunting and groaning makes it look a bit like depressingly
low-rent amateur porn film and Acorah throwing himself about the place while Westbrook howls
and cowers in abject terror is mildly amusing the first time you see it. The problem is that
there is over 10 hours of it here. The fact that the material doesn't spread very far is
exacerbated by the fact that half of this DVD set is made up of follow-up episodes where the
exact same footage is repeated but accompanied by a voiceover that's in the past rather than
the present tense. On TV, the logic for this is clear; if there is a week between episodes
people will not mind watching the same stuff again since Living TV is mostly repeats anyway.
However, when collected on a DVD set, it feels like padding designed to milk more money out
of the punters.
There are two audiences for this product and neither of them is particularly well served.
Firstly, people who are looking to buy this as a bit of a laugh should steer well clear as
with over 10 hours of material that seems thin a fifth of the way through then you're not
getting particularly good irony. The doubling up of episodes is nothing short of scandalous.
Secondly, if you're buying this because you believe that there's some truth in Derek Acorah's
claims to be in contact with the afterlife then either seek therapy or grow the fuck up because
when even I can spot flaws in his technique (such as Civil War prisoners talking about "bullets
to the head" when they musket balls rather than bullets during the Civil War) then you
should know that you're not only dealing with a fraud but a not particularly convincing one
either. Weak by all accounts...