Joan Van Ark and Daniel J. Travanti bring a good deal of star magnetism to this vidpic adaptation of Judith Kelman’s mystery thriller novel, “Someone’s Watching.” However, Adam Greenwood’s transparent script fails to generate any mystery and there are few thrills to be found in director Richard Friedman’s leisurely paced tale of the strange accidents befalling certain children in the not-so-idyllic community of Tyler’s Grove.
The story focuses on speech therapist Cinne Merritt (Van Ark), whose happy suburban life comes to a screeching halt when her precocious 9-year-old son James (Michael Patrick Carter) is struck down by a hit-and-run driver.
Spending almost every waking and sleeping moment by James’ hospital bed, Cinne finds herself bitterly hostile to irresponsible musician husband Paul (played with rumpled sincerity by Rick Springfield) and drawn to James’ almost hypnotically soothing doctor, Mitchell Ferris (“Law & Order’s” Christopher Noth).
Meanwhile, Tyler Grove police chief Allston (Earl Billings), believing this latest in a series of unsolved accidents involving local children is more than a coincidence, assigns maverick detective Drum London (Travanti) to work undercover to solve the crime … if there is one.
Van Ark’s concerned mother and Travanti’s suspicious detective begin to find answers to some intriguing questions. Why has the mentally impaired hospital orderly Hanky (David Paul Sommer) been giving the same children’s book to all the hurt children? Whatis Travanti’s paralyzed father (Bert Remsen) trying to say with his ouija board? Why is neighbor Lydia Holroyd (Dey Young) so determined to prove that her own son Todd (Jordan Davis) is a genius? Who is the ominous visage that keeps humming, “She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes”? And what happened to young James’ academic medal (yes, there is resemblance to “The Bad Seed”)?
Individually, Van Ark and Travanti (who barely intersect during the course of the drama) maintain a high level of focused intensity but cannot by themselves sustain interest in a plot that dissipates its suspense about halfway through the telling.
The supporting cast deserves high marks for effort. There is an icy ferocity to Young’s portrayal of the driven Lydia Holroyd, and Christopher Noth manages to be believable in all the manifestations of Dr. Ferris’ quirky personality.
Though rendered speechless, Bert Remsen communicates myriad emotions through his eyes and body language.
Also deserving praise for sympathetic portrayals are Melanie MacQueen as the tragically bereaved Lois Druce and young Ashley Johnson as her blinded daughter, Laurel.