Having grown up in the Wellington suburb of Khandallah and walked along Woodmancote Road (see End Note) many times on the way to school, the park, or the swimming pool, I'd passed this substantial brick house many times as a child, and sometimes peered through the slatted fence of the school playground into its vast back garden and tennis court. Little did I know back then that it was haunted. (Wellington Paranormal is a documentary, right, like Police Ten-7? Oh if only it were so.)
As they mock New Zealand's rural communities (see Episode 2 review), city dwellers Jemaine Clement and Taiki Waititi also love to mock suburbia. In Episode 1 it was hinted that the sedate (read deadly boring) Wellington suburbs of Kilbirnie and Hataitai contained Satan-worshipping cults, and now we learn that gentrified, leafy Khandallah is a hotbed of ... ghosts!
This episode's Briefing Room joke (about Prince) was, as usual, lame - an unpromising opening, as was the initial scene sending up Spiritual Medium Chloe Patterson - who's been temporarily inducted into the team to help out on this investigation, one which Sgt Maaka suspects may involve poltergeists. I get that tired Dad-jokes are part of the WP recipe but we've heard the small-medium-large joke too many times already (or maybe that's just the company I keep). Thankfully it gets better once the team leaves the Police Station. Episode writer Nick Ward and director Jackie van Beek are a sharp combination.
Medium Chloe (well played by photographer Andi Crown) is drawn to enter the large brick house that Minogue and O'Leary have just parked their patrol car in front of. "Yeah, I'm really picking up a strong presence," she says as she feels the vibe of the place. And very soon, after a short mediumistic ritual in the front room, the impossible happens. Didn't you always want to see how a spiritual medium might react if she - for once in her fraudulent and/or deluded life - encountered an actual spirit?
Gotta love that TVNZ2 slips a promo for the 2018 series of Sensing Murder into the ad break.
Then there's the apparition under a crocheted blanket. "Guess it's a 70s ghost," Officer Minogue utters before fleeing.
And at last, 'Cheeseface' is explained. Spoiler alert - 1970s again - he's the ghost of a party guest who drowned in a cheese fondue, his face impaled with the sticks. And it continues in this vein, making a grand spoof on the hedonistic excesses of the 1970s. This episode is a little light on scares but totally heavy on humour. Observe what's written on the elastic of Sgt Maaka's undies as he awkwardly reverses in through the window, and that he later collapses into what else but a La-Z-Boy recliner-rocker chair.
This all brings up an early-70s memory of my older sister's 21st birthday party in our Khandallah house, when I was about 9. Some of the guests and much of our house's decor looked pretty similar to the ghostly 70s party depicted here, including the radiogram record player combo that put out a whopping 3W per channel. Ours certainly wouldn't have drawn the attention of Noise Control, had it existed back then.
Aside from setting a probable world record for repetition of the word 'toilet' in a 23-minute TV programme, 'Things that do the bump in the night' is the best Wellington Paranormal episode so far, certainly the funniest. If the series continues to improve, maybe then they're onto something. A second series, perhaps?
Earlier promos and interviews for Wellington Paranormal mentioned Khandallah's Woodmancote Road as the location for the haunted house in this episode, though in the aired programme the location is given as (the non-existent) Tukariri St. But it's no secret: the rather handsome house still stands but has been empty for some time, and is, I'm told, due for demolition for the development of town houses on the large property.