Brian Baker Movies

New Paraflixx documentary Spectre or Spectacle explores how pop culture influences belief

My university undergrad was mostly filled with anthropology and archaeology classes.

I had a deep interest in how we as a species had developed from chipping chert in the Olduvai Gorge to standing with our eyes facing down into our smartphones.

That interest in the development of people and culture has carried on into my professional career as I spent 15 years working in news media as a journalist, photographer and editor. And it’s kept going as I write about the paranormal.

So, I was intrigued when Paraflixx sent me the press release for Spectre or Spectacle: A History of the Paranormal. Here’s a documentary that explores just how much entertainment has influenced the public’s perceptions of the paranormal.

SJ Evans

7T Something Films director SJ Evans sat down with well-known paranormal investigators Yvette Fielding, Barri Ghai, Jayne Harris, Alexandra Holzer and Katrina Weidman to talk about the hot topics within the paranormal world.

But the idea, he told me, came from his friend Shimmy Mehta who was looking to fundraise for the charity Angel Wish, as with the pandemic, donations had become less frequent.

“I thought, what can I do to, one, raise a little money, and two, raise a bit of awareness?” Evans said, during a mid-August Zoom call from his home in Cardiff, Wales. “Let’s make a documentary … My wife and I are massive paranormal fans, and I was like let’s just dive headfirst into that.”

The focus was how we as a culture went from thinking the paranormal was a taboo subject to being inundated with TV shows, podcasts and Hollywood films. The focus was not on the glut of paranormal television but more on pop cultural trends in general.

“I was trying not to dwell on paranormal TV too much. That’s a section on there where it’s influenced so many people’s beliefs and skepticism,” Evans said. “(“Most Haunted”) became sort of mainstream, especially here in the U.K., where you’re getting comedy sketches about them or discussions on BBC Radio.

“They really perforated the culture and psyche of people, and suddenly people knew what an orb was,” the 46-year-old added. “It became a bit more acceptable.”

For me, the idea of the documentary is a deep dive into how our beliefs in the uncanny have changed through the millennia. Looking at the paranormal through a social anthropological lens is what I love.

It hit close to home for me since I launched the Superstitious Times as a means to explore the paranormal in Canada. The paranormal is often kept hidden and only allowed out when it’s socially acceptable: during Halloween or around campfires.

Of course, Canada’s modern history is limited, and not enough is done to share the Indigenous beliefs on the paranormal, but Evans has pretty much every facet of the world’s brushes with the inexplicable sized up right from Babylonian times and the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare, Dickens, M.R. James and finally, Ghostbusters.

It’s not just American and British culture that Evans touches on. He also had the opportunity to chat with French investigator Sandy Lakdar, who is one of the few researchers in France who is allowed to explore some of the most allegedly haunted locations in her country.

Ah, if only Canada explored its paranormal vastness with the vigour of a real-life Fox Mulder. But alas, we’re as inert as a bottle of xenon gas. But, I digress.

Evans put together his documentary during the rotating lockdowns of the pandemic, so he wasn’t able to explore the topic as thoroughly as he would have liked. However, what he did explore will reveal that we’re entering another phase where society is (hopefully) more open to the paranormal.

“We’ve gotten to that point of wanting to think there is something more beyond this realm that we live in and whether it’s the afterlife or the matrix, who knows,” Evans said, with a laugh.

Spectre or Spectacle: A History of the Paranormal premieres on October 1, during Paraflixx’s Halloflixx month. New subscribers who use the code Spectre25 will get a 25 percent discount, with proceeds going to Angel Wish.

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