Ken Tucker
May 03, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Haunted

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
100 minutes
Sally Kirkland, Jeffrey DeMunn, George Wallace
Robert Mandel
Sci-fi and Fantasy

We gave it a B+

This TV movie is spooky and genuinely unsettling, especially if you’re skeptical of the otherworldly events it describes. Based on Robert Curran’s 1988 “nonfiction novel” of the same name, The Haunted tells the story of a family headed by Sally Kirkland (Anna) and Jeffrey DeMunn (Blaze). As Janet and Jack Smurl, they move into a suburban Pennsylvania home only to find it inhabited by hostile spirits.

At first, the bedevilment is annoying but minor — the boiler keeps breaking down; the electrical system keeps going on the fritz. Then apparitions begin to loom, and turn violent — Janet is picked up and thrown into a wall, for example. Director Robert Mandel (F/X) downplays the melodrama, emphasizing the ordinary lives these people lead when they aren’t being badgered by spirits. (And I do mean ordinary: Sally Kirkland goes bowling!)

As a result, it’s possible to watch The Haunted and think, “Yeah, that could happen.” It’s only toward the end, when the media hear of the Smurls’ claims, that the movie becomes silly-evil spirits are one thing, but yet another television depiction of TV news crews as rude, hostile louts is just too much.

So far, the Fox network’s handful of original movies has ranged from not bad (Hi Honey, I’m Dead) to awful (Working Trash); this one is a clear improvement. B+

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