Syfy’s SurrealEstate Episode 1 is the best time you can have being scared. It’s quirky, charming, and surprisingly hair-raising in a pitch-perfect pilot episode.
Syfy hasn’t always been successful when it comes to their horror fare. It is either not frightening while trying way too hard to be serious, or it is ridiculously absurd, making any scares all but ineffective. Hits like Wynonna Earp and Van Helsing are great dramas, but there isn’t anything terrifying about either. SurrealEstate is that rare breed of show that manages to be both nerve-inducing and cheeky. The perfect blend of fear and fun brings Syfy’s latest series to our Friday nights. Finally, we have something to be excited about. It doesn’t hurt that Schitt Creek’s Sarah Levy and Wynonna Earp’s Tim Rozon star. SurrealEstate Episode 1 brought Exorcist vibes in the cold open that proves Syfy has finally figured it out.
Luke Romans runs a real estate company with some decidedly unique talents. His is a full-service company. They offer a special set of skills not found in a traditional home seller. He works with a ragtag team of characters. Those include an ex-priest, stoic office manager, and a philosophical IT guy impossibly named August Ripley(Maurice Dean Wint). He quotes Pearl S. Buck with the sobriety of someone doing God’s work. Reminiscent of one of Syfy’s best series, Warehouse 13, the “field agents” go out and handle all the heavy lifting while the Scoobies do the bulk of the research. They are an interesting bunch that isn’t asked to do much in SurrealEstate Episode 1 but you can easily see them providing more depth in future episodes.
Split between two different cases, SurrealEstate Episode 1 brings Susan(Sarah Levy) into the fold. It also introduces the rest of the team, and solves two different paranormal events. After being recruited by Roman and unfairly fired by her boss and ex-lover, Susan has joined the Roman Company. Susan handles an upper-middle-class home with one too many poltergeists guests. The house is experiencing supernatural activity that affects the parents more than anyone else. Not surprisingly, the home isn’t haunted; their daughter is telekinetic. The other much scarier storyline features a house that shouldn’t exist. A poor woman is traumatized daily in her home. Pictures change before her eyes, and an angry dog beast is living in her basement. This segment features some genuinely harrowing moments that feel ripped from the best parts of the House on Haunted Hill 1999 remake.
Matching Luke’s passion is Susan’s snark which hides her broken heart and open mind. Levy brings her signature quirky charm to Susan. She is a salesman extraordinaire with a little something extra. Like Schitt’s Creek’s Twyla, Susan has a well of weightiness that we have only begun to plumb. There’s virtually no house she can’t sell, and Luke needs that salesmanship. Unfortunately, she has no idea she has joined an agency that specializes in haunted house sales. With nowhere to go, she has no choice but to join Roman’s team. Susan takes the role that was thrust upon her in stride, believing that ghosts and telekinesis exist without effort.
She has secrets of her own that allow her to embrace the weirdness that surrounds her new life. She finds herself faced with a hormonal girl with newly discovered powers. With the wisdom of experience and a killer playlist (seriously Lincoln Park and My Chemical Romance), she helps Lauren understand her ability and tells her she will learn to control it in time. Susan should know as she has the same gift. That reveal should play out nicely as the series progresses.
Luke Roman(Tim Rozon) spends his time in the Hell House. Rozon is fantastic as he blithely delivers supernatural lines with the kind of practiced indifference of the best grifter. There is something so delightfully humorous about Roman’s complete nonchalance in the face of utter chaos. Sulky teenagers or flying books don’t concern him. His nonplussed attitude is neither embarrassed by the subject matter nor deterred by others’ loss of belief. He is here to make money. If he has to perform a few rituals to make that happen, so be it.
It doesn’t hurt that his piercing blue eyes stare right into the screen and blaze with sincerity. Rozon really is a revelation. In place of the swaggering gravity of his Doc Holiday on Wynonna Earp, he has a deep sadness masked with blind confidence in SurrealEstate Episode 1. Rozon so completely commits to his character even the more absurd lines are plausible. By the end, you begin believing this agency exists, or at least should. He could be my huckleberry any day.
Luke’s haunting escalates in a hurry. It goes from a few unsettling pictures that the homeowner would sooner write off as drunken imaginations to a full-blown attack. There’s just something inherently scary about deadly doctors. The attack, which acts as a tipping point, is an intense scene that is more frightening than you expect. Thanks to good costuming and makeup choices, the evil doctors are ghoulish. Proving he is as brave as he is an accomplished capitalist, Roman helps her figure out what is happening. It wasn’t all for money, though, as Roman has a tie to the house. It is the last place his mother was seen. He has been watching and waiting for someone to allow him to investigate. His ability to see what others can’t let him have a foot firmly in both camps. He sees the money he can make off of ghosts, but he also longs to communicate with those he has lost.
The quippy writing and even better line delivery are where SurrealEstate Episode 1 shines. In very short order, all introductions are made without feeling like we were on the wrong end of a lengthy exposition dump. One-liners like “Only love and low maintenance composite decking last forever.” come hard and fast. This is a deceptively smart show with tons of potential. If SurrealEstate Episode 1 is anything to go by, we have characters that are fun to root for and horrors hiding in suburbia.
It’s a fresh concept that allows for weekly bottle episodes while also leaving room for a more extensive series mystery. What that mystery is, we don’t know yet, but consider my interest piqued. There is an earnestness to SurrealEstate that transcends the silly. In a series where lower the sales price is the truest horror among actual portals to Hell and telekinetic teens, the sky’s the limit. You can find SurrealEstate on Syfy every Friday night at 10 EST.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.