Continuum’s Simon Barry is resurrecting the spirit of classic horror films with Ghost Wars
Simon Barry keeps bringing people back from the dead. As creator of Continuum and an executive producer on Van Helsing’s first season, the British-born Canadian writer and director showed that getting killed doesn’t have to be the end of the road for major characters. Now he’s at it again on Ghost Wars, summoning restless spirits to explore ideas about the afterlife.
“When it comes to life and death, everyone brings their own agenda depending on their belief system,” says Barry, who is serving as showrunner on Syfy’s spooky new show.
In Ghost Wars those agendas are represented by four characters with contrasting perspectives. “We have a priest who’s a major character in the story, a medium, a scientist and what I call a ‘humanist’, who is someone who doesn’t have a dogmatic belief system but is more like you and I, and just trying to get through the day,” Barry reveals.
These four characters cross paths in the remote Alaskan town of Port Moore after it is subjected to what seems to be a supernatural attack by the show’s titular spirits. Yet, not everyone sees the assault as uncanny.
“From a religious point of view, it’s going to be seen through that lens,” Barry explains. “From a scientific point of view, they don’t want to believe in anything that is essentially paranormal; they want to quantify it and find a scientific explanation for it. For the medium, this is just normal because the paranormal world exists next to our world. Then, from the sceptical humanist worldview, it’s like, ‘What the fuck is happening and how do I process this?’”
To portray the show’s central characters, Barry has cast an impressive mix of young and experienced talent. Among the youth team is Caprica graduate Avan Jogia who plays Roman Mercer, an antagonistic loner cursed with the ability to communicate with the dead. The veterans, meanwhile, include Meat Loaf as the town bully and Daredevil’s Kingpin, Vincent D’Onofrio, as a priest.
“Because we were technically a smaller show than the typical network shows, we felt we had a tougher time getting the attention of name actors,” Barry recalls. “When the chance came up to get the script to Vincent D’Onofrio, it was really encouraging when he responded and said he liked the character.”
Despite a title that suggests it will be high concept, Ghost Wars will emulate sensibilities that characterised ’70s and ’80s horror films, Barry explains. “This is really about psychology and how our fears are our own worst enemy as opposed to something physical.” But it will also take cues from some recent classics of the genre. “We’re trying to do many things at once,” Barry says. “Sometimes it’s conflict in a very grounded, serious dramatic way and sometimes it’s more light-hearted so we’re not taking ourselves too seriously in the same way as more contemporary horror movies
like The Cabin In The Woods.”
“I’d bow my head too if my ’tache was as puny as yours.” “Does the afterlife still involve bats?” asks Meat Loaf.
Ghost Wars is set to debut on US Syfy in early October.