STUDIO: Phase 4 Films
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
Dead men do tell tales. Uninteresting, hackneyed, unerringly moist tales.
Cast: Matthew Fox, Russell Hornsby, John Mann, Lynn Collins
Private detective Frank Taylor is sad. Haunted (!) by the memories of an abducted son and a ruined marriage, Taylor devotes his life to tracking down missing people. After a near-death experience gives him the ability to communicate with the dead, he teams up with ghosts to solve mysteries. Unfortunately, some ghosts prove friendlier than others.
There are plenty of supernatural mystery shows on television right now, with only a rare few good enough to recommend. Haunted, which originally aired in 2002, would fit in nicely with its contemporaries were it on the air today; It’s The Dead Zone with ghosts, or The Ghost Whisperer with more testosterone. And like most TV, it’s riddled with tropes, takes itself far too seriously, and is generally forgettable.
Looking and sounding exactly like his character from Lost, Matthew Fox is watchable as Frank Taylor, but his character – a detective in a perpetual state of brooding disapproval – is hard to empathize with. The show’s long-form arc takes Taylor on a quest to find his missing son, but since it’s a chore to root for Fox’s miserable main character, the sideplots involving ghostly possession and doppleganger invasions are more interesting. Too bad they’re lifted from Twilight Zone B-Sides stale enough to break your teeth. And Taylor isn’t even Haunted‘s most generic character. His tormented ex-wife and brotherly ex-partner seem plucked from TV drama templates, and the show’s main villain specter is a bald, rictus-grinning goon that fails to deliver tension.
On the positive side, Haunted never looks cheap. Sets and locations are effectively gloomy and almost always dripping wet, and the ghost effects can occasionally draw out a jump scare or two. It’s possibly the wettest show ever filmed. Frank Taylor’s city is musty and rotten-through, and lends a hand carrying the show’s tone, but after eleven episodes, I’m still not sure where Haunted takes place. It’s clearly set in North America, but the skyline on the DVD cover shows Hong Kong, for some reason. It’s also an oppressively blue-green show thanks to the liberal application of filters.
While most episodes focus on Frank Taylor racing against the clock to locate a missing person or catch a murderer, there are a few noteworthy outliers. In Episode 7’s A Three Hour Tour, Frank crashes his car on a rural road, and is taken in by a strange girl and her shut-in parents. It’s the only episode that stands alone as a narrative worth watching. Nocturne, which puts Frank in peril when he’s accused of a murder, is the highlight of the mystery-of-the-week episodes, which comprise the rest of the set.
The problem with Haunted isn’t that it’s a poorly made show. It’s just a poorly written one. With better writing and more interesting characters, the Haunted universe could have been a place worth revisiting. As it stands, it’s the narrative equivalent of a Parker Brothers Ouija board. There’s potential for Haunted to be fun and scary, but beneath its glossy surface, there’s not much to it.
The transfer is a disappointing 4:3 SD, which is a shame, because Haunted‘s aqueous visuals are about the best thing it has going for it. Again, the DVD cover shows a rainy Hong Kong. Why?
Besides a few trailers for some unrelated features, there are no extras.
4 out of 10