'Spooked' conjures up ghosts and gags

Get ready to scream with the new webseries. Director Richard Martin and actor Julian Curtis talk to Crave about ghosts, the paranormal, and what attracted them to the hilarious horror comedy on Geek & Sundry.

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Would you let this Paranormal Investigation Team into your home? Geek & Sundry

Poltergeists, aliens, and creepy little girls who can chat with spirits are all mainstays of the typical horror movie or TV show, but add humor and tons of pop culture references to the mix, and you wind up with the new paranormal comedy "Spooked" -- from Felicia Day ("The Guild") and Bryan Singer ("X-Men: Days of Future Past").

The scripted half-hour series -- which debuted on Hulu and Geek & Sundry's YouTube channel this week -- follows a ragtag group of ghost hunters called the Paranormal Investigation Team, which includes their leader Connor (Julian Curtis from "Dance Academy"), occult specialist Morgan (Ashley Johnson from "The Avengers"), tech aficionado Lindsey (Neil Grayston from "Eureka"), fanboy Elliot (Derek Mio) and their secret weapon -- a little girl who talks to ghosts -- Piper (Shyloh Oostwald).

The series is written by Day and Michael Gene Conti, and produced by Day, Singer, Jason Taylor, and Sheri Bryant.

Series director Richard Martin and "Spooked" actor Julian Curtis spoke with Crave about why the show's mix of laughs and screams makes it so much fun to watch and work on.

"I've always been interested in magical realism," Martin told Crave. "It's such a great genre to really explore normal human emotions by setting it within the abnormal. So while the genre was enticing, the characters were even more so. The brother-sister dynamic was very powerful. After the sudden loss of their parents, Connor learns that his little sister Piper developed the gift to communicate with ghosts, so he drops everything to form the Paranormal Investigation Team to help her. The more cases they investigate, the more opportunity she has of speaking with spirits (and humans, too) with the hopes of one day providing catharsis over their family tragedy."

"But don't worry, there are plenty of laughs," Martin added. "I want our audience to have a good time, first and foremost. It's a fun show with a lot of heart. You don't have to sacrifice one for the other."

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Demons beware! P.I.T. are the cheapest exorcists in town. Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

"It's a paranormal comedy -- "Scooby-Doo" for adults and packed full of genre in-jokes," Curtis told Crave. "It follows a team of super cheap paranormal investigators as my character Connor tries to find peace for his little sister, Piper, following the death of their parents. Hmmm... That synopsis made it sound like a Fox Searchlight domestic drama -- but it is very, very funny."

The cast will be battling everything from ornery ghosts to UFO encounters during the series short four-episode run on Geek & Sundry. Martin already has a favorite scene that he can't wait for viewers to see.

"In the fourth episode, the team discovers a sorority girl has been possessed by a demon and seeing them try to pull off an exorcism is possibly one of the funniest moments in the series," Martin told Crave. "The possessed sorority girl (played by Emily Yetter) is a contortionist, so we didn't pull any punches. Everyone was having a great time on set. That was only day two of production. But that perfectly describes 'Spooked' -- a bunch of friends getting to hang out and tell stories. All we we're missing were the campfire and s'mores."

Even though "Spooked" isn't aired on a traditional TV network, the cast and crew committed to making a show with the same level of talent, expertise and quality.

"From very early on we decided to prove that you can make 'real shows' for the Internet, so the format was like standard television -- 22 minute episodes," Martin told Crave. "We were able to tell the stories we wanted to tell. We didn't have to worry about attracting millions of viewers to support the ads and marketing. We were extremely fortunate in that regard. Yet, that meant we didn't have quite as much of a budget as a show you'd see on broadcast TV. So we had to meticulously plan out every minute of the day in production, otherwise we would never have made our days -- 120 pages in 11 days."

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Rule Number 1: Don't let the creepy little girl who can talk to ghosts hold the knife. Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

While working on a comedy about unexplained phenomenon may sound silly, Curtis and Martin take the paranormal rather seriously.

"I absolutely believe in ghosts," Martin told Crave. "Do I think they are evil spirits who hate the living and want to cause us harm? No. That would be such a waste of an opportunity. That's why I don't think they hang out in cemeteries. I think they would rather do things they didn't have the time or opportunity to do while alive. Like travel -- see the wonders of the world they may have missed out on. Do things they never got around to doing. Or simply, just check in on their loved ones. Watch out for them, be part of their lives somehow. Don't waste a second chance."

"My auntie bought this abandoned chapel next to her farm house," Curtis told Crave. "It just so happens it sits on a children's gravesite that were victim of a town virus back in the day. I believe I encountered one of them thinking it was my nephew late at night. He was crying in a corner like in 'Blair Witch Project.' I really want to shoot a horror film there now."

In the debut episode of "Spooked," the Paranormal Investigation Team encounter a poltergeist haunting newlyweds Donna Johnson (Alison Haislip from "Battleground") and Carol-Anne (Dichen Lachnan from "Dollhouse").

A new episode of "Spooked" airs on Hulu and YouTube every Wednesday in June.

 

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