Monday, August 11, 2008

Season 1 Episode 2
Written by Matthew Venne
Directed by Brad Anderson

Ever since I came across Brad Anderson, courtesy of the psychological thriller, Session 9, I’ve been keeping tabs on his work, waiting for him to completely kick my a$$.
Session 9 didn’t quite do it, and neither did El Maquinista (The Machinist), and neither did his contribution to Season 2 of Masters of Horror, “Sounds Like.”
However, what all three did share was a strong visual style, that, as far as I was concerned, just needed an equally strong and solid script, to give Anderson the masterpiece I know is in him.
Sadly, though “Spooked” does have some strong psychological underpinnings (which has proven to be Anderson’s fascination), this proves to be the director’s blandest work, stylistically.
In fact, if I hadn’t seen the episode’s opening credits, I would not have immediately pegged “Spooked” as having been helmed by Anderson.

The episode follows Harry Seigal (Eric Roberts), a sleazy private eye with tons of bad karma from his past as a cop just waiting to bite him in the a$$.
Enter Meredith Kane (Cynthia Watros), who hires Harry to prove her husband is having an affair, a job that will open the floodgates to the multitude of sins in Harry’s past, and the traumatic event that lies at the very core of his tragic figure.

Now, as I alluded to above, Matthew Venne’s script takes pains in filling out Harry’s psyche, so much so that by episode’s end, we know exactly why Harry finds himself in the predicament he’s in. We can also fully appreciate the bitter irony of “Spooked”’s climax.
But, in focusing on the psychological aspect of the narrative, the supernatural element—which serves as the catalyst for Harry’s ordeal—is a tad glossed over. (And the set-up is rather transparent.)
Additionally, as I mentioned above, Anderson’s direction here is strangely a rather straight-forward affair, with none of the visual flair that made his past work engaging despite their shortcomings.

What does serve to make “Spooked” a nonetheless agreeable experience are the main performances. Roberts submits a flawed protagonist who manages to keep our attention, and, when it counts the most, elicit our sympathy. And while Watros has precious little screen time (three scenes, if I recall correctly), I still miss her over on Lost, so seeing her here was a neat little plus.

All in all, like “The Sacrifice” before it, “Spooked” has much more going for it in the pros column than it does in the cons.
It, however, is still not the hour that attests to Fear Itself being a television force to be reckoned with.

Parting shot: Reviews of El Maquinista and “Sounds Like” can be found in the Archive.

(Images courtesy of

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