Review: Ghost Wars 1×1 (US: Syfy; UK: Netflix)

Not even half as good or scary as Rentaghost

Ghost Wars

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Acquired by Netflix to air 2017

Sometimes, you can just spot when a show has been created simply because someone thought up a cool title. Take Ghost Wars. That’s a cool title, isn’t it? And there’s no way anyone would have come up with this heap of fetid inanity if they hadn’t had that title as a starting point. No one sat down and said to themselves, “Gosh, let’s create a show in which a small Alaskan town is under attack from ghosts and everyone keeps hallucinating things that makes them stab themselves in the head. Hmm, but what shall we call it? I know – Ghost Wars! There, wasn’t that lucky?”

Title first, story second. This is not the correct order, as unless you’re Emily Kapnek, whatever you produce is inevitably going to be rubbish. Even if you’re Simon Barry, have a previously good track record from creating Continuum, and you manage to hire both Meatloaf and Vincent D’Onofrio (Marvel’s Daredevil, Emerald City) to star in it, chances are it’s still going to be rubbish.

The actual star of the show is Avan Jogia (Twisted), a disturbed young man, always talking to himself, so the town’s population think he’s crazy, going to kill them all or both. Indeed, the only people who treat him nicely are the local preacher (D’Onofrio) and his best friend (Elise Gatien). Trouble is, Gatien’s dead and Jogia hasn’t actually been talking to himself but to her and a bunch of other ghosts – something he’s been able to do since he was a kid, having inherited the ability from his psychic mum.

No one believes him about that, mind, so he plans to get out of town as soon as possible, now his mum’s gone. Trouble is, there are a whole bunch of new ghosts who are a lot nastier than the regular bunch who had been hanging around, and these ones don’t want anyone to leave. They’re also recruiting and since they can make people see things, they go around causing as many accidents and hauntings as possible to kill everyone they can.

Thankfully, as well as being able to see them and see through their projections, Jogia has the nascent ability to send them packing. All he has to do is get his powers up to speed before everyone in town manages to kill themselves thinking they’re being stung by bees. Or something.

It could have been good

Now, in fairness to Barry, if you stripped everything away from the show and took it back down to the script, Ghost Wars could potentially have been all right. Not brilliant – the dialogue is sometimes laughable and it’s a bit bog standard horror movie at its heart – but if he’d had a good lead and M Night Shyamalan back in his Sixth Sense days directing, you could have had a decent horror series. Hell, if they’d got whoever edited this trailer to direct it, it could have been leagues ahead of what we’ve actually ended up with.

Instead, we have a staggering tower of ineptitude from top to bottom, from director David Von Ancken (the man behind Tut) through the production values through the set designers and costume department through the supporting cast all the way down to its deflated soufflé of a star. It’s like a first year film studies student movie, in which they get a bunch of their mates to wear oversized Halloween costumes and act out a script knocked out in a coffee shop one lunch break, and then they try to use a pirated Korean version of After Effects to recreate the highlights of Rentaghost.

D’Onofrio is doing full mumblecore while sporting a look that speaks of a thwarted ambition to be the understudy to wrestling star The Undertaker. Everyone else, including Meatloaf, has two modes: “We hate you Jogia you freak” and “We were sorry we hated you Jogia. You were right. Argh! Now I’m going to die. Am I dead yet? Argh again. Argh.” Jorgia just sits around like a 13-year-old whining inaudibly about how everything’s so unfair.

Ghost Wars is so bad it would almost be funny were it simultaneously not so boring. There’s no tension. The editing ensures there are no surprises. Ghosts show up and you want to titter with laughter. It’s just wretched. You’d be more frightened by a Ghostbusters bloopers reel. Avoid like the plague.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.