- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
he most amazing thing about the short-lived UPN series “Haunted” finally making it to DVD is that it didn’t happen sooner. As soon as “Lost” became a cult phenomenon, it seemed a given that some studio would jump at the chance to ride on the coattails of Matthew Fox’s first significant post-“Party of Five” success by releasing his previous and decidedly less successful attempt at a series. The reasons for its delay are unknown to me (although my personal suspicion is that someone learned a lesson from the fact that the success of “Alias” did not result in Jennifer Garner fans flocking to buy the hastily-released “Significant Others: The Complete Series”), but with all of the hype surrounding the impending conclusion of “Lost,” it’s nice to see that someone – specifically, Phase 4 Films – finally decided to take the risk and get “Haunted: The Complete Series” into stores just before the buzzer sounded.
Now that you know the most amazing thing about “Haunted,” let’s discuss the second most amazing thing about the series, which is that it only lasted for seven episodes before getting the hook by UPN.
Actually, it only seems amazing if you watch the show based on how you perceive it now: as one of the darkest, most unrelentingly creepy dramas you’ve ever seen on a broadcast network. “Medium” has had moments that’ll chill you to the bone, that much is certain, but “Haunted” had no cute kids to lighten the mood. Indeed, the one child who plays a part in the series may be dead, so don’t expect any wisecracks from that youngster.
To clarify that last sentence a bit, here’s the story behind “Haunted.” Fox plays Frank Taylor, a former police officer whose career and marriage both went down the tubes after his son was abducted. Frustrated by the fact that his son’s case remains unsolved, Frank leaves the force (though his days were pretty well numbered, anyway), and becomes a private investigator specializing in – surprise, surprise – missing-children cases. Unfortunately, during the course of trying to hunt down Simon (John Mann), a man linked to several abductions, Frank ends up critically wounded and Simon ends up dead. Actually, Frank ends up dead, too, but as a result of crossing over and coming back, he finds himself able to see and communicate with the dead. It might sound like a benefit, given Frank’s line of work, but the dead have a tendency to bypass speech in favor of offering Frank horrifying visions. Worse, since Simon doesn’t have to let a little thing like death stop him, he’s creeping around on a regular basis and doing his best to confuse and disturb Frank in his attempts to solve crimes, particularly the one most personal to him. The show provides Frank with a supporting cast among the living, most notably his aforementioned ex-wife, Jessica (Lynn Collins), and his former partner on the force, Marcus Bradshaw (Russell Hornsby), who still offers assistance whenever he can, but as you might expect, the dead drive the show far more than anyone who actually still walks the earth in a proper corporeal fashion.
Although “Haunted” certainly maintained continuity between its episodes, between the “previously on” segments and the opening credits narration, viewers could’ve stepped in at any time and still enjoyed the series if they’d only given it a try, but they didn’t. You can blame part of that on UPN’s decision to pair it with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a decision which sounds good if all you’re considering are the titles but falls apart when you realize how drastically different in tone the series are. But what’s more likely is that Fox’s “Party of Five” fans came to see their heartthrob in his latest effort and quickly ran screaming into the night. To look at “Haunted” now, however, is to see a series which is so captivating that you may well be tempted to suggest that Fox make a feature-film version part of his future plans.
Watching “Haunted” on DVD is an experience best done in the dark, not because that’s the best way to watch any scary program (though it is), but because it’s filmed really dark. Watching in it in a well-lit room kills the feel on two different levels and destroys everything that creators Andrew Cosby and Rich Ramage worked so hard to establish.
Special Features: Given that there’s nothing else to be had, let’s be charitable and consider the inclusion of the five episodes never aired by UPN to be bonus material. It’s not surprising that Fox was too busy to contribute anything to the set, and Cosby keeps busy as the man behind SyFy’s “Eureka,” but this series was so good that it feels like they’ve lost an opportunity to throw their weight behind the DVD release and show people what they missed. A lesser critic might even shoehorn in the suggestion that they’re haunted by their memories of its failure, but, oh, that’s right, I am a lesser critic.