Monday, October 23, 2006

"Fear" with Celebrities

I gleefully volunteered to cover weekly episodes of Celebrity Paranormal Project as I was happily addicted to its mother show, Fear, which aired on MTV in the late 90s. A handful of impressionable youths, (25 years old and under – me and my co-worker Justin checked it out), were left alone to investigate haunted places with ineffectual flashlights and ghost-hunting gadgets hanging off their backs. You never got the impression the ghosts were anything more than pranks played by sadistic producers, but the show was still scary. The kids screamed like they were having the bejesus scared out of them. I rooted for the girls, hoping a few would show some backbone in front of the boys (who got freaked, too, but maintained their composure). Most girls went to jelly right away, never making it overnight to collect the measly 3k offered as a reward. The show disappeared like an apparition itself until recently. VH1 played homage on season 3 of Surreal Life. I fondly remember Charo screaming down the halls of some derelict building. Now celebs have been matched to Fear fulltime. It’s a brilliant media morph and makes you wonder how far VH1 can push desperate celebs in hard times.

Sent to the famously haunted tuberculosis sanitarium, Waverly Hills, in Kentucky (The Ghost Hunters have already been here), Gary Busey, Toccara (a model from America’s Next Top Model), Donna d’Errico (an original babe from Babywatch), Jenna Morasca (winner of Survivor Amazon), and Hal Sparks (comedian from Talk Soup) started the show with a decidedly C-level cast. In fact, I don’t know any of the celebs except Gary Busey, but I feel he’s scary enough to carry the show. We heard crazy talk about his spirit abilities he claimed to have received after his motorcycle accident. He hugged everyone in the cast which he said was a “blessing of his energy.” He tried to calm scared celebs by telling them Jesus was their savior. But we got a glimpse of his un-Chirstian-like temper in a “shut the F. up” altercation with Toccara. To her credit, she wasn't intimidated at all. Later in the show Gary makes a questionable comment about the color quality of the shadow people who walk the haunted halls. He says “black ones are the bad ones,” a comment which doesn’t go unnoticed by Toccara.

Toccara is there for a scary experience – and she leaves empty handed. She is the true skeptic on the show. And I like her for it….until she says “What's tuberculosis?” Frankly, that scares me. The boys explain it to her – none of the girls pipe up. Hold the ghosts; I’m darn tooten terrified by now.

Hal, the comedian, calls himself a professional jerk; but he must not be a good one because he did nothing particularly jerky on the show, except make a lot of bad jokes.

And Jenna Morasca can survive the Amazon amongst a bunch of back-stabbing contestants but she’s the first to crumble when she hears a noise in the dark. What’s scarier: starvation or a little red ball finding its way into the hall?

Much of the same hoopla of Fear has returned, including hyperbolic props (a spirit scroll looked more like something made by Parker Bros.), abandoned, paint-peeled locales, an ominous computer program that spits out directions to the cast, and funny camera angles to capture their blood curdling screams. However, nothing happens that isn’t explainable as a behind-the-scenes prank. The computer claims a door has been left shut. The celebrities find it open. Do they think maybe the crew has been screwing around? Never. Either they've been coached to freak out or they truly are Gullible Gilligans.

Here are the stats:
Screamers: Donna screams the loudest.
Bawling Girls: Donna and Jenna both start to cry.
Bad Behavior: Busey pushes a team member out of the way to comfort Jenna. He also bullies the team into choosing the 5th floor as the haunted heart of the sanitarium.

Realistic Scare: After spirit writing, Hal and Jenna both feel cold and nauseous and want to throw up. Busey says, “Spiritual writing, buddy -- it's never wrong.”

At the end, the cast uses the spirit scroll to ask the spirits to “go and leave us in peace,” an insulting request really. Who went calling on the ghosts in the first place?

I could have sworn I saw preview footage of Gary Busey throwing furniture around a room? What happened to that? Gary claims this show is imperative to watch. Hal claims Gary is the scariest part of the show. Gary talks about the ghosts, “When you get afraid, they’ll tease you.”

Stay tuned next week for more C-listers and Rachel Hunter!

This show gets under your skin. When The Edgar Winter Dog growled in his sleep last night, I sat right up.

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