Living with the Dead

LIVING WITH THE DEAD;
aka, TALKING TO HEAVEN. 2002

Director: Stephen Gyllenhaal

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



This psychic detective story was a two-part television mini-series. Despite the length, it is sufficiently rich in texture to not drag. The casting is lightweight yet it works. Ted Danson of Cheers & Becker is the reluctant psychic who sees dead people. He's as pasty-faced in the film as any of the ghosts. The police investigator is an excessively fashionable Mary Steenburgen who very soon becomes a true believer getting her clues exclusively from the psychic, so not being much of a detective in her own right.

A variety of hauntings boils down plot-wise to an important one: A serial killer has been doing in boys by burying them alive. The whole group of ghost-boys is haunting Danson forcing him to solve their mystery, & save the final victim who has not yet been buried.

Jack Pallance puts in a wonderful performance as the psychic's widower father. His late wife (Diane Ladd, still hanging around as a ghost) had the same power, & he had tyrannized her into psychiatric care & suppression of her ability. He begins with the same attitude toward his son. How he comes to terms with his own guilt over what amounted to mistreatment of his wife, & how he comes eventually to embrace his son's power, is a finely developed subplot.

Another subplot is tearjerker stuff featuring Queen Latifa as the psychic's good buddy who is dying of cancer. These subplots allow for a balance of a horrific thriller about a child-killer, & a film about the lives of well played characters. It manages the balance exceedingly well, never seeming merely padded out to the two-part length.

Well worth viewing, heads above most mini-series for both writing & acting, with some honest to crap chills scarsely expected of a telefilm. Living with the Dead was additionally "ahead of the pack" for the new fad for television shows about psychics solving crimes.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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