August 9, 2012

The Haunting of Sarah Hardy (1989)

"As a child, Sarah witnesses her wealthy mother's suicide. Later, as a young bride, she is haunted by her mother's voice and other strange manifestations. Is it her imagination, someone playing tricks on her, or her dead mother's spirit?"

Since I made a mistake and watched this because I thought it was a horror movie which I'd never heard of before, I'm going to review this really quickly and get it out of the way.

If you've ever seen "Dominigue" (1979), "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy" was much the same, but with more twists. Some of the twists worked while others were as ridiculous as the ones in the also similar "Double Jeopardy" (1999).

It's interesting that the three films which I've just named are ten years apart from each other. Maybe Hollywood thinks that people are stupid and forget what was put out a decade before, but I'm one of the reasons why they can't get away with it. I wonder if there was a movie which used the same plot in 2009? I'm sure there was.

Certainly, Sela Ward, the star of "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy", was in a another remade thriller which pretended to be a horror movie in 2009. I actually wondered when I watched "The Stepfather", if the mother was somebody who I should know for being famous for something else. Of course, even with the aid of the IMDb, I'm still none the wiser. I don't even remember her from "The Fugitive" and, amusingly, even though she also starred in another movie called "Double Jeopardy" rather than the one I've mentioned, it was from 1992, and I've never seen it.

I'm not going to pretend to know anything about any of the other actors in "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy". I simply haven't watched enough of the American TV shows where most of them came from and went on to work in. Morgan Fairchild was the exception because I used to watch her in "Flamingo Road". She always played the part of a scheming bitch really well and was successfully typecast in this movie too. I thought that she looked surprisingly plain in comparison to Sela Ward, but maybe it's because I prefer brunettes.

One of the unnamed stars of this movie was actually the house where it all took place. If you've ever watched those conspiracy theory documentaries about Stanley Kubrick and "The Shining", you'll be surprised that nobody ever made more of the fact that Pittock Mansion isn't anywhere near an ocean in real life. If the missing maze of the Overlook Hotel means that Kubrick faked the moon landings then surely the director of this film, Jerry London, must have been in on them too. Sometimes I despair of people.

The whole thriller was basically about romantically linked schemers trying to get ownership of the mansion and the rest of Sarah Hardy's wealth. If it had been more original and scripted better, it would have been a classic. Unfortunately, film noir fans had been enjoying this plot over and over again for donkey's years. Apparently, although "Gaslight" (1944) may have been the first to use this story, it was done to death. Even Agatha Christie used it for "Endless Night" which became a movie in 1972.

There were no scares in this, not much suspense, and it was all very predictable. The acting was pretty good though with nobody disgracing themselves with anything but their dated clothing. Shoulder pads, big permed hair and huge glasses abounded; it was all so very '80s.

The ending was too rushed and the final shock which was intended fell flat. I'm willing to forgive that since I was entertained in spite of "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy" not being the ghost story which I initially wanted it to be. Misleading titles really annoy me.

I can't forgive the lack of anything sexy even though I know that this was a made-for-TV movie and American TV is full of prudes. A couple of nice rumpy-pumpy scenes would certainly have made the story more realistic since there wasn't enough sexual tension between the characters or chemistry between the actors to make any of their relationships believable.

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