Paranormal is an Egyptian web series that’s currently being distributed as a Netflix Original, and it’s available both in subbed and dubbed version via streaming. The first season includes six episodes, and I really hope we will get a second season, because this is the most fun I had in a long time with a supernatural themed series.
The basic premise: in Cairo, in 1969, doctor Refaat Ismail is trudging through his life with a hunched back and a bleak outlook; Refaat considers himself a rationalist and lives by a set of rules that are designed to help him make sense of reality. Rule number one is, there is no paranormal. Which is weird, because Refaat’s first crush, back in 1940, was a ghost. And on the day of the doctor’s 40th birthday, things take a strange turn.
Based on a very popular series of 81 novels published (as far as I know) only in Egypt, Paranormal is a refreshing mix of supernatural horror, psychological thriller and family drama. Its dark humor and the slacker main character might remind someone of Darren McGavin’s Kolchak, and I stand by this comparison: the series is just as good as the original Kolchak the Night Stalker, and the lead Ahmed Amin is a devastatingly good actor.
Refaat is a skeptic that finds himself investigating strange occurrences while trying to keep his grasp on rationality. The fact that he is a loser, a shy and downbeat man, a serial snarker riddled with regrets and self-loathing, makes for an interesting character, one that’s not likeable at first, but that grows on the viewer as the story progresses.
The strange mix – and the influences from a culture that’s at the same time close to mine (I was amazed at how much 1960s Egypt looks like 1960s Italy) and different – make for an original show, with a lot of unexpected twists and turns. We get hauntings, a mummy’s curse, revenge from beyond the grave and other strange occurrences. What starts as a monster-of-the-week series reveals itself for something very very different, and if the earlier episodes might leave newcomers cold, the final payback is fantastic, and the last scene sets up a second season that I really need at this point.
The acting is superb, the stories go more for a creepy, disturbing feel than for jump scares, and if some of the effects (and one of the actor’s hair job) leave somewhat to be desired, the overall experience is highly recommended, and will be very rewarding.
Netflix had already struck gold, for me, with the Korean zombie-drama Kingdom – a series so good I even managed to not be turned away by the vocal fanboys online chirping incessantly like a bunch of frigging sparrows. But I am familiar with Korean films and stories – Paranormal comes from Egypt, and I have no familiarity whatsoever with that culture. I probably know more about Egypt in the ’20s, or in the time of the pharaohs. And therefore I find it very good that Netflix is finally fulfilling the promise that we’d be able to enjoy music, films and stories from all over the world, getting to know different cultures – a promise that was made to me thirty years ago.