The Myth Of The House
A spooky opener featuring a child playing inside a big house kicks off episode 1 of Paranormal. It’s a simple hook but enough to entice you further into this Egyptian series.
We’re in 1979 and dignified professor Dr Refaat believes in hard science and refuses to acknowledge the possibility of demons or otherworldly spirits. As he writes (and narrates) himself in his notebook late at night, “There is no paranormal.”
At the office, Refaat runs into his old friend (See: love interest) from Scotland, Maggie. Despite his inner-consciousness warning against it, he invites her along to dinner at his sister Raeefa’s house. He’s celebrating his birthday and hopes things don’t turn awkward. Which of course they do.
He shows up with Maggie and the half-hearted happy birthday chants from the family simmer down. You see, Refaat’s fiancé Huwaida happens to be in attendance and he’s not wearing his ring.
When this is pointed out, Refaat coughs nervously and claims he forgot. It’s all too much for him and Refaat finds an excuse to leave the table, at least momentarily.
Suddenly, all the lights shut off prompting Dr Refaat and the others to scramble down to the basement, believing it’s an air raid. In their panic, they forget about little Taha whose been sent on an errand to buy cigarettes for Refaat.
With Taha missing and the family members separated, we flash back to the past for glimmers of where these supernatural elements began for Refaat.
While out playing, he met a strange girl at her mansion called Shiraz. She invited Refaat and all his friends inside where they sit uneasily watching as she brings juice and jelly to the table.
Afterwards they play together outside but she cuts her head open. Instead of crying though she starts giggling until hurrying over to the other kids and telling them Refaat declared his love for her.
There’s obviously something not quite right about her but Refaat continues to try and be a good friend, playing with her in this big house while the others head home.
Things soon turn from bad to worse, as Shiraz goes missing and Refaat finds himself creeping up the various passageways, past grotesque apparitions inside to try and find Shiraz. Eventually he does, up on the rooftop.
Shiraz tells him that everything he’s inside the house is all in his head. She encourages him to jump but when he does, Shiraz pulls her hand back and lets him fall to his doom. Only, Reda is thankfully there and catches him, breaking his leg in the process and demanding the kids all swear on the Quran not to return to that house.
In the present, the group find Taha up on the roof; a juxtaposing image to what we’ve seen in the past. Dr Refaat manages to save him from his fate, bringing the boy back home.
The rest of the family sit together at the table, questioning what Taha has seen and whether this weird spirit of Shiraz has now turned its attention to Taha instead. Refaat takes some time to speak to the young boy, admitting that he too has seen Shiraz. Only, he brushes it off as a subconscious manifestation of his imagination.
That evening, Maggie watches awkwardly in her car as Refaat drives Huwaida back home. She gives him his birthday present – a green necktie – which he awkwardly accepts before saying goodbye.
While he’s alone with Maggie, she speaks to him about the Shiraz story, and in particular the amount of detail the family remember around this. He brushes it off as a myth but Refaat is clearly a man in denial.
In denial to his love for Maggie and in denial about the existence of Shiraz, whom we see appear under his bed that night, shuffling and squirming. “You do not exist Shiraz.”
The Episode Review
This Egyptian series gets off to a pretty good start here, managing to weave light bites of comedy into this predominantly darker and more thrilling storyline. While the aesthetic is sometimes a tad too dark (in terms of brightness), the story is interesting enough to stick with this for the long haul.
There’s a nice balance between the different characters and Refaat’s narration layering over the top of his words helps to reinforce that feeling of a conflicted man at work, unable to face the truth that plagues him.
Having not read the books this is based on, I can’t comment on how well an adaptation this is. In terms of spooky thrills and engaging characters, Paranormal strikes just the right balance to make it worth sticking with.