“Paranormal”: This Sourpuss Sees Dead People

Paranormal,” Netflix’s first Egyptian television series, has hints of Indiana Jones and “The Mummy,” with a touch of “The Ring.”

The series is based on the late Egyptian novelist Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s best-selling books. It is set in 1960s Cairo and its protagonist, a hematologist named Refaat Ismail, is a gloomy, chain-smoking pessimist who is incapable of saying what he really means. He lives by a set of “laws” and believes in science over the supernatural.

Photo: Netflix.com
Refaat’s love life is a mess. We learn that his first love was a ghost girl who tried to lure him to his death. Decades later, he has a fiancee but continues to carry a blazing torch for his former colleague, Maggie Mckillop. Maggie suddenly returns to Cairo after a 15-year absence. Her appearance roils Refaat’s heart and coincides with a spate of paranormal events. Among other adventures, Refaat and his loved ones are stalked by the ghost girl. He also is pursued by a mummy, and goes on the hunt for an exceedingly rare herb with magical curative properties.

The Netflix production was a little goofy, with well-worn horror cliches (such as a mummy’s curse and a cave guarded by a terrifying beast). There also were some weird hair styling choices (I refer specifically to the gigantic mop of red hair that obscured most of Maggie’s face) and campy special effects. 

Photo: Netflix.com
I found the show’s pacing a little plodding at times, and the narrative was sometimes confusing. However, the characters were extremely likable, especially Refaat. It was a joy to watch this grouch navigate his hapless life. And while I’m a fan of the paranormal, it was the series’ celebration of family (and all the myriad drama and complications of family relationships) that I found compelling.

This is a good effort for Netflix’s first foray into Egyptian horror. I recommend this series if you’re in the mood for something exotic, yet familiar, and don’t mind reading subtitles. 

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