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Ghost Towns series two
cast: Derek Acorah, Daniella Westbrook, and Angus Purden

director: Tom Cohen

700 minutes (15) 2006
Contender DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
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 Most Haunted, 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 reading.

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...

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