Exploring South Asia’s Paranormal Zone, A DVD Review & Episode Guide

16 Sep
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By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Available to Stream (free) on YouTube

The realm of supernaturally charged themed television programs is often wrought with one huge problem: not a lot of production companies take the subject seriously. More networks prefer the shows they broadcast to over dramatize or simply tease at what could be than to study it from an anthropological point of view. Very few programs get academic in its approach.

The programs that take on a cultural view are the best and sadly they are few and far between. Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, In Search of … with Leonard Nimoy and Beyond the Series belong to a handful of respected programs anyone can enjoy.

From out East, The Paranormal Zone is a Malaysian produced program by Kechara (the production house) which joins this exclusive club. It often ‘studies’ this world from a skeptic’s perspective. Not every detail can be fulfilled in the 24 minutes. Instead, this program provides an excellent primer so further study can be made later.

Li Kim is the hostess and her program is broadcasting on SyFy Asia. If this carrier network sounds surprising, I’m glad they don’t adhere to the shenanigans the US-based company plies with their State-side ghost shows. I have to wonder just how much grip the Asian executives have with this program because this gem really needs to be exported to the rest of the world. The respect it has towards Hindu, Malaysian, Buddhist and Taoist beliefs are touched upon in gentle ways. To see how they connect to spiritualism and folklore of South Asia makes this program an excellent watch.

Season one’s best episodes are “The Curse of the Ghost Child,” “Seawang: The Dance of Nature” and “Dreaming into Reality.” The former goes deep into the South Asian variation of Voodoo and the latter explores how sleep visions can be persuasive on different fronts. From lucid dreaming to symbolic interpretation, Kim looks into one layer of what dreams are made of.  The phenomenon of Astral travel when a subject is sleeping is a very personal one for me, and I’ll be the first to help Kickstarter or Indiegogo any documentary to explore the subject in-depth. It might be cheaper than pursuing a Master’s degree in parapsychology.

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Watching this program helps give viewers a great peek into subjects from a fresh perspective. Not every subject is influenced by Western methodologies or religions. “Exorcism” is a worldwide phenomenon and every culture approaches this practice differently. This episode suggests personal willpower is very important when individuals (the monks in this case) are taught how to protect themselves. Sadly, nothing new is really offered in “Haunted Houses.” The tools no matter where you are in the world. One item to note is how respectful everyone is prior to going into a spooked abode. Speaking from personal experience, any group can get better results when asking the spirit world for permission to come in and explore. That’s a technique not every investigator uses and this can make for all the difference in how successful a night’s vigil can get. This technique is sometimes seen in the odd British show but definitely not American.

Season two only gets better and deeper looks into local beliefs. “The Sound of Light” makes for a perfect follow-up to the haunted house episode to demonstrate a different way to investigate the paranormal realm and in what some spiritualists can do to bring healing energy to a sad location.

The first two episodes, “The Artistic Spirits” and “Heavenly Fortune and Hell Luck” are very well done. Most theatre patrons are familiar with a certain “cursed” Shakespearean play; if that word is uttered someone gets hurt. When compared to when the patron saint of Cantonese Opera, Wah Kong Sifu, gets dissed, everyone on stage and in the auditorium will get cursed. There’s plenty of other superstitions associated with theatre, and this episode can certainly benefit from having an extended cut.

The next episode does a nice job in explaining how fortune can develop for people but I think an opportunity is missed when the purpose of what Hell Money represents is not explained. Depending on the holiday, it’s burned as part of a ritual to send currency to loved ones to pay for survival in the afterlife.

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The two-part “Dragons: Fantasy or Real?” episode feels very concise in its South Asian interpretation and not even Beyond the Series has gone into this depth in its exploration of supernatural creatures. Perhaps the best explanation of why they no longer exist is because the human soul has forsaken everything about mysticism (karma) to allow them to see. Dragons are spiritual creatures; thus, they are invisible to the human eye. Those who are spiritually attuned may see them. This interpretation is the best out of all the studies I’ve looked at. Fantasy literature, like in the Dragonlance series, spoke of how they left the mortal realms. A better comparison is with the animated film, Flight of Dragons, based on the book written by Peter Dickinson.

I’m hoping Season 3 will also get released to home video. There’s no online streaming service carrying this series yet and when that happens, maybe a technical problem can get resolved. I found the background music track many decibels too loud. Even the sound effects were off; they were even a touch overpowering in the title card scenes. Despite this technical flaw, The Paranormal Zone is definitely one of those better series to watch for folks wanting an academic perspective in what lurks on the other side.

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