With “Haunted,” Matthew Fox is exorcising the ghost of “Party of Five’s” Charlie Salinger. UPN drama has a comfy post-“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” timeslot that offers auds a tempting two-hour adrenaline fix. And while CBS’ “The Guardian” and Fox’s “24” will eat up a good number of viewers Tuesdays at 9, the rest get to choose between this dark entry and the WB’s “Smallville.”
Director Michael Rymer delivers the “Haunted” scares straight up, without the comedy chaser to which some have become accustomed when suspending disbelief. Very similar in style and tone to Fox’s short-lived “Brimstone” and feature film “The Sixth Sense,” skein is easily one of the creepier ventures on TV.
Fox is Frank Taylor, a former police officer turned private investigator who still blames himself for his young son’s disappearance. The tragedy destroyed Frank’s marriage to Jessica (Lynn Collins) and keeps him from moving forward with his own life.
After a near-death experience chasing a suspect in a child abduction case, Frank starts to see dead people. Some of the apparitions seek his help; others are out to stop him. With the aide of his former partner Marcus Bradshaw (Russell Hornsby) and his new otherworldly sources, Frank solves the case and discovers that helping others ultimately helps alleviate some of his own pain.
Writers Rick Ramage and Andrew Cosby utilize the “undead” concept to maximum effect, and viewers have proven themselves willing participants in subscribing to paranormal and fantasy adventure series.
But “Haunted” can feel a bit uncomfortable. Frank is still grieving for the loss of his son and has committed himself to finding him and others like him. Jessica, on the other hand, seems almost cavalier about any continued search. By introducing such a disconcerting storyline, the writers will have to follow through with the appropriate range of complex emotions or else the abducted-son plotline will feel like a cheap device.
With Jessica off in denial, that leaves all of the brooding and obsessing to Frank. That’s a heavy load for Fox to carry, but he received superb training on “Party of Five,” where he learned to be a man and still cry.
Tech credits are slick and grim. Frank lives in a drab world, and lenser Gordon Lonsdale portrays it in muted tones devoid of primary colors except for blood red.