Horror takes a Holliday: SyFy’s ‘Surreal Estate’ builds nicely…

SyFy's spooky 'Surreal Estate' puts the morgue into mortgage, but there's some phantastical fun along the way...

Some homes are more difficult to sell than others… especially if you find there are more people within its walls than there should be. Haunted houses are fine for fun and films, but less welcoming if you want to make a good impression. Money pits and hellmouths are not favoured features in the listings.

Which is where realtor Nick Roman and his team can help. They specialise in properties with paranormal problems, helping to weed out the unpleasant from the unearthly, the homely from the haunted.

The team has quirky ways of dealing with the unexpected and the unexplained, but some lost souls are easier to deal with than others – and there are many ways to feel haunted by the past…



There’s a good rule in films (and, to a similar extent, in television and any type of fiction) that humour is a great ice-breaker in a tense situation and that sudden frights come best when you’re relaxed and having fun. But that being said, comedy and horror are a hard thing to get right when they encompass more than one scene or moment. The screen is littered with productions where one aspect feels awkwardly or opportunistically stapled on to the other rather than seamlessly combined. For every solid entry like Evil there’s a raft of inferior examples where the most tactful review is to say ‘formulaic’.

Going in to Surreal Estate, the new offering from SyFy, you might be thinking that it will be that kind of diversion – nothing terribly bad, but also nothing terribly new. However – while there’s certainly a template or pigeon-hole into which it could be firmly squeezed – the good news is that the show largely gets it right and the result is fun without being stupid, a little scary with underlying menace, but no danger of inducing any serious arrhythmia. It may not push boundaries, but it has fun within them, taking the hokey and playing it straight but with a smile In fact, it feels like a nice counterbalance to Evil itself – in this case, the scales tilted more into the lightness of touch with some darker drama nibbling at the edges rather than the wry-drama-tinged-with-barbs that Evil offers. In Surreal Estate, there’s very little doubt the dead are rising, if they ever settled at all.

The concept makes one wonder why this hasn’t been done like this before: a real estate firm that deals with making haunted houses ready for purchase – whether that means a spring-cleaning or a deeper exorcism-level wash.  Fresh off his turn as Doc Holliday in cult hit Wynonna Earp, Tim Rozon adds realtor Nick Roman to his list of interesting, multi-layered characters (which also includes turns on Diggstown, Schitt’s Creek, Vagrant Queen, Lost Girl and the US version of Being Human) heading up an elite team of specialists to ‘handle the cases that no one else can’. With an eclectic team that includes British actor Maurice Dean Wint as the enigmatic inventor August Ripley , Savannah Basley (another Wynonna Earp face) as sardonic co-ordinator Zooey L’Enfant,  Adam Korsen is Father Phil Orley and Sarah Levy as new recruit and straight-shooter Susan Ireland, it seems primed to be a Ghostbusters type set-up, right down to gizmos that capture the spooks when needed. But while that classic movie might be a touchstone, it’s not a guiding light and Surreal Estate actually ends up with a slightly edgier result.

For instance, though there’s a few homages along the way including a very ‘Exorcist‘ start and a list of quirky non-corporeal categories (the second episode is named The Harvey, the team’s film-ticking designation for a spirit that assumes the role of an imaginary friend, harmless… or not), you simply aren’t going to get a Slimer or giant marshmallow man in the mix, unless it’s a self-deprecating ‘label’. The ghosts we’ll see here are genuinely tormented or tormentors, not quaint or quirky… they’re a real problem, even if the home-owners don’t always want to acknowledge that.

Rozon’s Roman is haunted in a different way from the rest of his team… his mother vanished into an old house years ago, never to return and a running thread within the show is his efforts to find out the truth about that disappearance when the house comes on the market once more and he feels her presence. Roman is also visited by his late father Carl (veteran Art Hindle) but in a far gentler way that could almost be his imagination which gives the show a heart and soul to go with its less caring cadavers…

Wynonna Earp fans should get ready for Melanie Scrofano’s appearance in the third episode, this time playing a very different character with a very different relationship to Rozon…

Surreal Estate and its weekly horror storeys have all the makings of another cult hit…

'Surreal Estate'  (SyFy review)
'Surreal Estate' (SyFy review)
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