Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The USA World Premiere Movie Project: The Haunting of Seacliff Inn (1994)
This review has been posted in conjunction with the Daily Grindhouse's year long tribute to the USA World Premiere Movie.
Confession: I have a love/hate relationship with Ally Sheedy. OK, it’s more like like/don’t like, but I tend to run hot and cold on the actress. I think she really found a niche for herself playing supporting characters because it allowed her to explore darker and more interesting roles. But, as a lead it’s rather hit or miss, and for me it’s more miss than anything else. Such is the case with The Haunting of Seacliff Inn, which premiered on September 22nd, 1994. As a rather traditional small screen supernatural tale, it might have benefitted from a more compelling leading lady. Luckily, Ally is aided by the always reliable (and hunky) William R. Moses, who has actually found a nice place to showcase his talents on small screen thrillers via Lifetime, where he takes on both good and bad guy roles. Moses makes a nice companion for Sheedy, balancing out the couple. And, if nothing else, Seacliff manages to provide a cozy place to spend 90 minutes.
Sheedy and Moses are Susan and Mark, a self-proclaimed yuppie couple, who are interested in starting a bed and breakfast. They stumble upon a gorgeous estate (or more appropriately, Susan’s sixth sense leads them there) owned by an old lady who isn’t interested in selling. So, it all works out rather nicely when she winds up dead, and the property is placed on the market for a song. But like all weird deaths that happen in big houses that sell cheaply, strange things are afoot. There are creepy dogs, electrocutions, a strange woman (or perhaps a sexy apparition), a psychic… you name it. And it doesn’t help that Susan and Mark are already on the outs because of an affair Mark had. In short, they have their own ghosts, and sexual and emotional repression run rampant through Seacliff, raising the dead, if you will.
Director Walter Klenhard does his best to create an eerie atmosphere, and the gorgeous Seacliff Inn becomes its own character. Shot around Camarillo and Mendocino, CA, this is your one stop shop for 19th century architecture, moody cemeteries and crashing waves. Lucinda Weist, who plays the first guest at the inn is also a great addition to a relatively small cast, injecting a somewhat predictable but intriguing mystery in the whole affair (emphasis on the word affair). And Louise Fletcher is good as the local psychic who helps Susan unfold the many mysteries.
In many ways, Seacliff reminded me of Haunted By Her Past (aka Secret Passions, 1987), mostly in that the sexual repression works as a catalyst to raise ghosts that are both physical and metaphorical, and the, ahem, climaxes are somewhat similar. But whereas Haunted had a nasty but sympathetic ghost villain, Seacliff lacks any real edge, and in the end, it is not that memorable of a film. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it failed to linger upon the mind only an hour or so after I saw it. I do like that it's a nice, serious throwback to the supernatural TVMs of the 1970s, and, even if it's not the best movie ever or anything, Seacliff is definitely a rainy day kind of film, the one you turn on when you're half-dozing and want to fill your mind’s eye with lush manors and cute blonde guys.