Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The Haunting of Sarah Hardy (April 19, 2010)
This review has been a long time in coming. Years, in fact. See, around 1992, my brother and I started seeing a movie called "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy" advertised on the cable network TBS, and we of course (being morbid little brats) wanted to see it, but our mom didn't like us watching horror movies. One afternoon, when the movie was being re-run, we convinced our mom to let us watch it, though. Since it's more of a romance/thriller, my brother wasn't fond of it, and my mom liked it for the most part but she HATED the ending, so I was the only one in the family who really enjoyed it.
Years passed, and eventually all I could remember about the movie was a few sparse scenes and the ending. I couldn't even remember the title, and I wanted to watch it again, but I couldn't seem to track it down, so I recruited the help of a few friends of mine (including fellow movie lover Ed Tellier) and together we managed to track it down and figure out that it was this movie. I got a nice friend to transfer her ratty old VHS onto a DVD and I finally got to see the movie last night. So was it worth the wait?
I was a little hesitant at first, because the kids in the prologue of this movie are some of the worst actors I've ever seen, and I worried that the movie would be terrible, but my fears were unfounded. Once the story got going, it was just as good as I'd remembered. Poor Sarah had to watch her delusional mother commit suicide, and she grew up living with the fear that one day she'd inherit her mother's mental illness and suffer the same fate. When we meet the adult Sarah, she's just gotten married to Austin, the man of her dreams, and she's moving back into her family homestead, The Pines, which is beautiful, but also the creepiest fucking house I've ever seen. It's even creepier than the Amityville house.
Of course, as soon as Sarah moves back into The Pines, she starts seeing things. Ghostly images outside, broken glass on the mantle that mysteriously disappears, and she starts getting threatening phone calls and hearing her mother's crazed piano playing. Is Sarah indeed going crazy, or is her mother, whose body was never found, finally coming back after fifteen years to get revenge?
I have to say, even though it was predictable to my older self, I still enjoyed the mystery here. I think even if I hadn't remembered the ending I would have known what was going on (I've seen too many movies where this happens) but it's still fun to watch. Even though the kids in the prologue are terrible actors, I still liked how the adults chosen to play the kids all grown up actually look like their childhood counterparts, and no matter what my mom said about Sarah being weak, I still thought the movie worked better because she was kind and virtuous and didn't have a mean bone in her body. Yeah, I would have loved to see her kick some ass and get some payback, but I don't think it would have fit with her character, and I think Sela Ward (one of my favorite actresses) manages to make Sarah vulnerable without seeming too fragile (after all, if you thought you were going crazy because of some kind of family curse, you'd be pretty "fragile" too, I don't care what my mom says).
This movie isn't for everyone, but I definitely think it deserves more praise than it gets. It taps into a sweeping romantic/thriller tradition of creepy Gothic mansions and family secrets that makes for a fun two hours, and I'll certainly be watching this again (with my huge collection of DVDs, choosing to watch anything more than once is a huge compliment).