You Don’t Choose The Spirits, They Choose You - Afterlife (2005-2006)

Not be confused with the Ricky Gervais series currently on Netflix.

This is still to this day one of the best paranormal and psychological horror shows I’ve seen on TV. You could argue this show is a loose sequel to The Sixth Sense, which I completely see being set in the same universe. Besides being similar in tone, it also shares the basic premise involving the relationship between a medium and a psychologist.

Alison has been encountering ghosts with unfinished business since childhood, and is trying to move on and lead a normal life. But the ghosts won’t leave her alone and it’s taking a toll on her mental health. Alison drinks heavily, is always unsettled, gets nervous around people but tries her best to help those in need of her gift.

Psychologist Robert is fascinated by her condition, believing it’s all in her head. He follows her encounters to try and help her, while also writing a book about her. Robert doesn’t believe for a second that what Alison is going through is real and believes she is suffering from suppressed trauma.

Alison is haunted by the ghost of Robert’s dead son, making her desperate to get through to Robert to help him but also give his son peace. However, Robert’s denial and refusal to come to terms with his son’s death causes major conflict between the two protagonists.

Leslie Sharp delivers one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on TV, that I feel she was robbed of a BAFTA nomination. Her mood swings are extreme, she stutters a lot and constantly repeats herself in the same sentence. She is very convincing as someone who’s on edge, maybe having a breakdown or is possibly schizophrenic.

She is thoroughly engaging to watch every time she’s on screen, even when she’s going crazy, she’s incredibly sympathetic and easy to route for. You have no doubt that she believes everything she sees and you feel her determination to help others.

Andrew Lincoln is equally impressive as he convincingly provides interesting psychological interpretations of the hauntings, not necessarily trying to prove what’s going on is fake but deciphering why people think they’re being haunted. He is at times hard to like, as he can be horrible through his denial or struggle to move past his bereavement. But these are realistic behaviours and Lincoln sells those moments that you want him to reach resolution for his pain.

The chemistry between Sharpe and Lincoln is excellent, it’s not your typical duo – in fact they despise each other sometimes due to their conflict in beliefs but eventually realise how much they need each other.

Each episode mostly features a different haunting, each one is unique to the other, depending on how the ghost relates to the person/place they haunt. Some are incredibly disturbing, particularly the one with a teenage boy in a mental institution, and another that involves a baby monitor. Other ghosts are just creepy without a word even said, like a little girl who drowned so her ghost is constantly wet from head-to-toe or the night nurse with a cold stare in the finale.

The resolutions to each haunting can sometimes be satisfying, but other times can be bleak and devastating and go in directions you wouldn’t even expect. They feature a selection of sinister moments, such as the opening prologue with a family committing murder-suicide or the séance in the season 1 finale.

The show is slow paced, taking it’s time to establish characters, their situations and setting the mysteries of the hauntings. It perfectly balances out the weekly stories with the on-going arcs of Allison and Robert. The tone is serious, with hardly any humour at all, yet keeps you entertained with suspense and well written dialogue that makes you think.

The horror aspects are handled brilliantly, without relying too much on blood or gore but rather spine-chilling tension and mystery. It effectively utilises the psychological approach, it has you questioning if what goes in is real or not, and you can be valid in either theory. The ghosts are never over-utilised, they appear moderately but it’s more effective when we're following the characters reacting to the hauntings.

The show lasted only two seasons, at only a total of 14 episodes, however the finale does deliver a natural ending. After watching it didn’t even occur to me if a third season would be necessary, the ending wraps everything up.

It’s an engaging horror show that is psychologically disturbing with two strong leading protagonists. If you’re a fan of The Sixth Sense or any paranormal stories you should definitely give it a go.

Written by Jack Parish

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