An oddly paced thriller with big credibility holes, CBS’ “Footsteps” deals a tense, claustrophobic hand but can’t get past a silly plotline that never once seems believable. Taut and edgy in some moments, but purely outrageous when it counts most, telepic is more of an exercise in behavior than in narrative since it takes place, for the most part, in one house. Only problem is, the characters presented aren’t very interesting; they’re TV cutouts who lack any subtlety.
Based on an unproduced play by Ira Levin, whose “Deathtrap” is one of many influences here along with “Misery” and “Wait Until Dark,” show is unconscionably simple in description but, as proven, not so easy to execute. An though it’s always nice to see director John Badham in action — he ups the suspense ante at certain points — the payoff will ultimately mean more to undemanding readers of dime-store novels.
Candice Bergen is Daisy Lowendahl, a pulp-crime writer whose books have sold millions but who can’t get jazzed about anything. In fact, she’s been an emotional wreck ever since she purposefully killed off her main franchise draw, unable to do simple tasks without the assistance of hubby Robbie (Michael Murphy).
Wanting desperately to prove she can be alone, she returns solo to her beachfront residence, just trying to get through the days without massive panic attacks. Her plan is ruined when she finds in her closet Spencer Weaver (Bug Hall), a lanky local who claims he’s just a fan and really doesn’t have any violent motives behind the stupid prank.
Just as she’s hearing him out, along comes police detective Eddie Bruno (Bryan Brown), a rough-edged charmer who says Robbie asked him to check on Daisy. As Daisy sorts out the truth, she must make split decisions and put her phobias on hold.
Armed with a high-concept design and several opportunities to have fun with some genre elements, Badham keeps things moving as much as he can. But more suited, due to its genesis, to the stage than the tube, the actions are too clunky and the words too stilted. (Project was adapted by Shelley Evans.)
Perfs are also awkward. Bergin’s overly mannered speech is so glaringly strange that it’s hard to picture her all the rage even as a populist author. Her condition also makes all of what transpires too transparent: Fear grips her, yet she doesn’t seem that freaked out about anything that’s happening. Brown’s whimsical approach to questionable activity and Hall’s wide-eyed gushing don’t do much for the seriousness of it all.
Filmed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the pic’s major set — a nicely designed country home with a lived-in look — is on the money.