In The Haunting of Sarah Hardy, a young girl named Sarah witnesses her delusional, unbalanced mother commit suicide by running off into the sea and drowning herself (at Sarah’s father’s funeral, no less). Her mother was never seen or heard from again but Sarah never quite believed she was dead. Fifteen years later, we meet Sarah as an adult and she has just married a successful handsome man named Austin. Sarah decides to move back in to her family home, The Pines, despite what her longtime pals Lucy and Allen think.
Right away, creepy things begin to happen to Sarah. She begins to see things that vanish or shadows that appear to be her mother. One of the main occurrences that freaked her out was hearing a tune her mother would play on the harpsichord, even though there was no one in the room. Eventually Sarah begins to think that perhaps she inherited her mother’s crazy gene and will suffer the same suicidal fate as her dear mom. Throughout the film the writer/director works to make sure that audience is questioning whether Sarah’s mother is still alive or if someone is truly after Sarah.
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Let’s move on to the possible suspects! The first suspect is Sarah’s psychotic mother who seeks revenge after fifteen years. It makes perfect sense due to the fact that her body was never found! The second suspect is Sarah’s long time best friend Allen. Allen has always had a crush on Sarah and yet she never really seemed to care. Is he feeling spiteful enough to kill? The third suspect is Lucy, another long time best friend of Sarah’s, who absolutely loves Sarah’s family’s home. Is she a jealous frenemy? The fourth suspect is Mrs. Stepford, Sarah’s family’s long time housekeeper. She has been Sarah’s housekeeper since she was a child but is she fed up? The final suspect is Austin, Sarah’s handsome, understanding husband who wanted to move into the house. Perhaps he’s doesn’t care for Sarah at all? Or who knows, it could be Sarah who really did inherit her mom’s insanity gene. As the viewer, of course, we make our assumptions to try and decide exactly what is going on.
When I first watched The Haunting of Sarah Hardy, it reminded me of George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944), however, I’m not sure if it is a remake or just influenced by it. As far as it goes with the characters, they were all believable and carried their own. In the beginning of the film, the little girl who played Sarah as well as the kids who played Allen and Lucy were awful actors. Which is totally fine because they weren’t really in the film for too long. The actress who played Sarah as an adult (Sela Ward) did an awesome job. Although all these outrageous things are occurring Sarah is not whiny or a helpless China doll. She remains level headed 85% of the time even though she’s vulnerable.
Overall, I felt like The Haunting of Sarah Hardy still works despite being a TV movie from the late 80’s. It’s a film that is full of mystery. With that said, it’s not for everyone. It’s not very scary and it is extremely predictable. However it taps into the tradition of spooky Gothic mansions filled with ghosts, family secrets and thrills. Plus the mansion, The Pines is beautiful and possibly one of the creepiest mansions I’ve ever seen. Cool fact about the mansion; it’s actually called Pittock Mansion and it’s located in Portland, Oregon. You can visit it certain times during the year! [Editor’s Note: I drive by it at least once a month]
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Title: The Haunting of Sarah Hardy
Director: Jerry London
Writer(s): Jim Flanagan, Thomas Baum
Stars: Sela Ward, Michael Woods
Studio/ Production Co: Millenium Pictures
Length: 92 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Horror, Mystery