In 2019, my good friend and colleague Michelle Swope recommended a new show for me to watch. It was a docu-series called Hellier, focusing on paranormal activity in Kentucky. I’ve always been interested in the paranormal as a kid, but as I grew older, the reality television approach just wasn’t appealing to me. When I started watching Hellier, everything clicked again: the production value was amazing, there were no manufactured “answers” or phenomena, and it was more about trying to ask questions together, rather than what the answers were. I wrote about it here in case you want to know more about that. But the same team behind Hellier (Greg and Dana Newkirk and Karl Pfeiffer, with guests like Tyler Strand) are releasing a new feature length documentary called The Unbinding, and by golly, do things take a turn.
Greg and Dana Newkirk run a museum of the supernatural, where they curate and document objects, documents and more things related to all things spooky. They get sent tons of stuff for curation, and most of it doesn’t “do” anything for them. No paranormal activity. Zip. Greg often theorizes that, once the connection with the receiver is broken (so, when they send the object to Greg and Dana), the object is lacking part of the paranormal equation and the phenomenon ends there.
But every so often, they receive something that really challenges the way they look at paranormal phenomena. The Crone, which is the effigy at the center of this documentary, is one such object. It came with a heavy backstory, full of torment for the previous owners. But instead of ending when Greg and Dana got a hold of it, the torment just moved right with it.
What’s Different About The Unbinding
Hellier was my first exposure to the work of this dream team made up of Greg and Dana Newkirk, Karl Pfeiffer, Connor Randall and Tyler Strand. It’s a docu-series that stands at 2 seasons for the time being, though everyone and their mom is waiting for season 3.
Hellier was recorded “in real time” as things happened over a period of years. This is also the reason why there’s no season 3 yet. That, and Satan. But mostly, the fact that the Planet Weird team refuses to make stuff up just to generate content.
Enter The Unbinding. In this single-shot espresso-strength feature docu-film, the team are at it again but with a single object. A single purpose. Gone are the branching story paths of Hellier. The Unbinding is all about The Crone.
This makes for an interesting change in dynamic that will also feel more satisfactory to those people who complained about Hellier not having a proper “ending” (or goblins). There is a 3-arc story here and by the end, you feel like you’ve seen everything you needed to experience to absorb the full experience.
If I had one gripe with it, it’d be the first act. Because they had no way of knowing the crone would go bananas, there are a lot of recreations of the early parts of the story (as there’s no actual footage). I respect the balance of having to tell the story without having the footage, but I’d have made this section a bit shorter to move the plot along.
But since unlike Hellier, The Unbinding provides an actual ending to the story, the lack of paranormal blue b*lls (a term coined by fellow weirdos in the community), it all balances itself out.
Technicalities about Technical Stuff
When I first watched season 1 of Hellier, I had just bought my ultrawide monitor. And one of my favorite things about the cinematography of that docu-series is the cinematic aspect ratio. Well, cinematic everything: the pacing, the color correction… Karl Pfeiffer is probably the most talented DP working in the paranormal space right now.
Another fantastic thing about Planet Weird content is the use of technology to investigate paranormal objects and events. You may think this is normal, and that is partially true. But The Unbinding focuses on technology that relies on humans to work. This is such a cool concept to me, and it turns Dana Newkirk into a conduit for a lot of what we end up learning about The Crone.
Should you watch it?
Paranormal content itself isn’t for everyone, and The Unbinding isn’t your gateway drug type paranormal content. This isn’t the paranormal equivalent of pot. Planet Weird content is mushrooms or LSD: there is a rapport that needs to exist, a covenant between the creators and the audience that allows the latter to enjoy the experiences of the former without judgement.
So if you’re into weird stuff, paranormal things and have an open mind, then absolutely. I’d even say The Unbinding is a better entry point into the Planet Weird universe than Hellier because there’s resolution at the end.
So maybe, The Unbinding is the initiation you need to go from demanding answers, to understanding the importance of asking questions together. And then you go into full Hellier mode and end up looking for blue balloons everywhere like a nut case (me).
If you’re borderline skeptic, this won’t convince you otherwise. And probably nothing will. And that’s fine: Planet Weird is not actively evangelizing, looking for converts.
If you’re a weirdo, though, you owe it to yourself to get taken for a ride by the Crone.