demons & possessions

[Netflix Review] Paranormal Season 1 (2020) ★★★★☆

Refaat in his maze in Paranormal

Paranormal conjures up some fun, action and tragedy with a fresh take on the paranormal. 


Paranormal is an Egyptian supernatural Netflix Original horror series and based on the books by Ahmed Khaled Tawfik. The series contains Egyptian mythes that play a big part in each episode, that deliver humor, fun, action, some creepiness, monsters, demons and ghosts, all told with a great affecting narrative. It’s a short series that has an overall story arc that is engaging and is spiced up with some great supernatural adventures. It feels fresh, mainly due to the main character and after a short introduction the paranormal is fully on taking the viewer on a mysterious journey. 

This first season consists of 6 episodes with each a duration of 45-55 minutes. It has an overall story arc with a continuous storyline but each episode brings in a new spooky paranormal incident or adventure. It is highly recommended to watch this Egyptian series with its original Arabic audio and with subtitles in your own language if possible. 


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Plot

It is 1969 and Dr Refaat Ismail is a professor in hematology and lectures at the university in Cairo. When at his 40th birthday he meets an old college friend from Scotland Maggie Mckillop, whom he was always in love with, he takes her with him to his sister’s house to his party. There, Maggie meets his fiancé Huwaida, his sister Raeefa and her husband Talaat and their son Taha and Refaat’s older brother Reda. And Medhat‚ Talaat’s brother and his wife Elham. They tell the story of Refaat’s first love Shiraz a ghost girl whom they met in an old mansion when they were just little kids in 1940. But now Shiraz is back to haunt Refaat and while he is a very rational and cynical man, he can’t deny the existence of the paranormal any longer and he is also the one who has stop these malicious events, that put him and his friends and family in grave danger. 


Why you should watch it

Paranormal often feels like an Indiana Jones series with an anti-hero who is sucked into paranormal events which he doesn’t believe in in the first place. This original mix results in a very fun watch, with some scary moments, thrilling action and a very tragic ghost story to deliver an emotionally charged journey. At the center of it all is Refaat. The rational cynic, whose voice over delivers some great sarcastic sneers and comments which he obviously doesn’t say out loud. But we get to enjoy them and get to know Refaat in a more intimate way. Although he is cynical, he’s far from unlikable. He’s the anti-hero you root for. He’s a very unlucky guy and you could even say he’s cursed but he doesn’t believe in curses. 

When he turns forty and he meets Maggie again, that’s all bout to change. He gets to deal with an ancient mummy who unleashes a curse, which he has to solve. His fiancé gets ill and he has to go search for an extinct flower in Libya with the help of Maggie and another college friend from Edinburg, Louis C. Ferre. Then in his hometown of Mansoura he and Reda are attacked by a Naiad. At home he is tormented in his dreams by an Incubus and finally he has to confront Shiraz herself. 

The first episode is an introduction to Egypt in 1969 and the group of friends who grew up together and how a single incident will change their lives. That incident and the former friendship with Shiraz is the big story arc‚ while Refaat is the big heart of the story. While the ghost story isn’t something we haven’t seen before, Refaat is a fresh character that reluctantly is dragged into the paranormal and therefore has to believe what he can’t rationalize away. That results in some very fun cynical comments and thoughts and a wonderful anti-hero. 

The way his rational thoughts and science and the importance of his brain and his intelligence are woven into the paranormal, just clicks and feels very naturally. This is most apparent when he dives into the maze that is his brain in his dreams that deliver some surreal scares. How he uses his intelligence and mind to solve the paranormal mysteries is very comical, but also shows that they don’t collide but are a perfect fit, making his ultimate fate even more ironic and tragic and maybe even epic. 

While the first episode starts out slow, but not unpleasantly, to build the setting and background story, the next episodes are full of action, humor and the paranormal. While it isn’t all that scary, the way the story is told and the adventures unfold, the interactions between the characters and the emotionally charged background story provide for an enthralling and engrossing watch. 

Especially the last episode is very powerful and heartbreaking and brings Refaat’s character fully to life. His journey from a person with very bad luck to a person with probably even more bad luck is very fun, ironic and cleverly woven into the narrative. It makes his journey pressing, vulnerable and all the more courageous. But there’s also a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting for more and you realize that this first season was only a great setup for more paranormal events to come, that probably will even more dangerous and dire. I can’t wait.


My favorite part

The character of Refaat at first takes maybe some getting used to, especially his inner thoughts that entertain us with some pretty cynical and sometimes even pessimistic commentary. But the series highly succeeds in letting the audience get to know him, fully understand him. He really does come to life in a wonderful way and the things that are happening to his friends and family are therefore all the more devastating. He’s a bit of a fool sometimes especially when it comes to love but he’s also very kind. I also loved Maggie and their love story is far from over and hopefully we get to see her again in a next season. Because the ending had a big surprise that just asks for a second season. 


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Scare factor: ★★☆☆☆

Drama factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★☆

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★


Cast and crew

Paranormal is created by Amr Salama and based on the novels by Ahmed Khaled Tawfik. It stars Ahmed Amin (Refaat Ismail), Razane Jammal (Maggie Mckillop), Reem Abd El Kader (Shiraz), Samma Ibrahim (Raeefa Ismail), Aya Samaha (Huwaida Abdel Moniem) and Rushdi Al Shami (Reda Ismail).

Music: Khaled Al Kammar. Cinematography: Ahmed Beshary. Production company:  Netflix. Original network: Netflix. 


Check the trailer below


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