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The Dead Will Tell

Spooky enough to merit its Halloween-timed arrival, this made-for would be a bit easier to like if the producers didn't include psychic James Van Praagh, who has built a nifty career (including a short-lived TV show) around the whole "I see dead people" motif. Still, good is good, and this modest little mystery proves intriguing until its payoff, which you don't need to be psychic to foresee.

With:
Emily Parkes - Anne Heche Billy Hytner - Jonathan LaPaglia Beth Hytner - Kathleen Quinlan Paul Hamlin - Chris Sarandon Jenny - Eva Longoria John Hytner - David Andrews Liz - Kate Jennings Grant

Spooky enough to merit its Halloween-timed arrival, this made-for would be a bit easier to like if the producers didn’t include psychic James Van Praagh, who has built a nifty career (including a short-lived TV show) around the whole “I see dead people” motif. Still, good is good, and this modest little mystery proves intriguing until its payoff, which you don’t need to be psychic to foresee.

Anne Heche turns in a nifty performance as a woman with a history of mental illness who begins seeing strange things — including a bedraggled-looking ghost — after her too-good-to-be-true new fiance (Jonathan LaPaglia) gives her an antique engagement ring. Turns out the ring belonged to a young woman who disappeared 35 years earlier, leaving only her finger behind.

Before you die, you see … well, you get the idea.

After a period of understandable turmoil, Emily (Heche) eventually turns into a latter-day Nancy Drew and begins investigating the circumstances surrounding the decades-old disappearance, a trail that leads to the dead girl’s ex-boyfriend (Chris Sarandon) and the detective assigned to the case.

Emily’s whirlwind romance means she doesn’t meet her intended’s parents until after the engagement, quickly discovering mom (Kathleen Quinlan) is a lush and dad (David Andrews) seems very much in need of whack with a happy stick. The supporting players also include Eva Longoria, who thus goes up against her hit ABC drama “Desperate Housewives.”

Along the way, a trio of credited writers and director Stephen Kay exhaust virtually every twist from the beyond-the-grave repertoire, with mysterious visions, suddenly dropping temperatures in Emily’s house and electronic equipment gone haywire. None of this breaks new ground, but the filmmakers plow up the old conventions artfully enough to sustain interest until it’s too late to bail out.

Notably, the pic is one of several recent productions shot in New Orleans, a city that (beyond its helpful tax breaks) offers a nicely atmospheric setting for gothic fare, including USA’s recent “Frankenstein.”

CBS has scored before with Van Praagh-inspired longform entries, including the 2002 miniseries “Living With the Dead,” which starred Ted Danson as a super-sized version of the psychic (who has a fleeting cameo here). In the wake of “The Dead Will Tell,” it doesn’t require a sixth sense to predict this ESP-Eye relationship will continue.

The Dead Will Tell

Movie; CBS, Sun. Oct. 24, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in New Orleans by Barbara Lieberman Prods., One Light Prods. and Robert Greenwald Prods. in association with Granada America. Executive producers, Lieberman, James Van Praagh; co-executive producers, Phyllis Heller, Malcolm Petal; supervising producer, Philip Kleinbart; producers, Salli Newman, Anne Heche; director, Stephen Kay; writers, Mark Kruger, Nancy Fichman, Jennifer Hoppe;

Crew: camera, Michael Grady; editor, Lance Luckey; music, Tyler Bates; production designer, Chester Kaczenski; casting, Stacey Rosen. 120 MIN.

Cast: Emily Parkes - Anne Heche Billy Hytner - Jonathan LaPaglia Beth Hytner - Kathleen Quinlan Paul Hamlin - Chris Sarandon Jenny - Eva Longoria John Hytner - David Andrews Liz - Kate Jennings Grant

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