Con­tin­uum’s Si­mon Barry is res­ur­rect­ing the spirit of clas­sic hor­ror films with Ghost Wars

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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.

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