"The Haunting of Sarah Hardy," which premieres tonight at 9 on cable's USA Network, offers curious truths about the nature of Gothic psycho thrillers.
This is one of those let's-drive-the-beautiful-heiress-crazy-and-get-her-money tales. It takes place at Sea Pines, Sarah's grand childhood home, which will remind you of Rebecca's Manderley before the fireworks.
Sarah (Sela Ward), whose zany mom committed suicide, marries great-looking stockbroker Austin Hardy (Michael Woods). Mrs. Thetford (Polly Bergen) runs Sea Pines, to which they retreat. Sarah's understanding best pals, or maybe not, are actress Lucy (Morgan Fairchild) and psychiatrist Alan (Roscoe Born).
So much for the setting. Strange things start to happen and Sarah kills herself. Or maybe not.
The thing about suspense is that the characters can be dumb and the plot can be muddled and the whole production can be awkwardly filmed and sometimes it can still work. But if there's no passion in the playing and it all lies there flat and deadly and every twist and turn of the story is predictable by a mile, then there's not much fun and surprise left.
The best performance is by the 22-room marble, cast bronze and hardwood Pittock Mansion in Portland, Ore., where this was shot. It portrayed Sea Pines. Great work there.