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Buried Secrets (1996)

An elementary ghost-mystery TV movie, predictable in every lick and always taking the safe option. Widow Laura Vellum (Melinda Culea) and her undercharacterised teenage daughter Annalise (co-producer Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) rent a picturesque if run-down Victorian home in Maine which happens to be on a piece of property abutting a cliff (and a lighthouse). Annalise has glimpses of a dead woman at the bottom of the cliff and, more often, Mary Roff (Erika Flores) a girl about her own age who is reputed to have shoved her mother to death and disappeared - though Mary claims to be a ghost who can't quite remember who did her in and prompts the heroine to go through the local newspaper archives and Clay (Tim Matheson), husband and father of the dead women and owner of the house. Since the brooding Clay is happily remarried to a cheerful shrink (Kelly Rutherford) and has a replacement toddler, it's obvious that the new mother will turn out to be the wife-shover and daughter-drowner. The equally brooding wrong-side-of-the-tracks mechanic (Channon Roe) who was the ghost's boyfriend and sort of clicks with Annalise is another obvious red herring - though it turns out that for plot reasons Clay buried his own daughter 'like a dog' and claimed she disappeared.

The scenes between Annalise and Mary almost play like a fantasy sit-com, though the dead girl sometimes gets pettish (if a long way from scary) and does that Topper walking-through-people trick to effect semi-possession (which manages to change eye-colours of the possessee). It does raise in dialogue a plot hole found in a surprising number of ghost stories - if Annalise can see a total stranger's spirit, why can't she see her own beloved Dad? Perhaps intended as an extension of Matheson's tiny Buried Alive TV movie franchise, this is mostly teen haunting business (all the women are babes and most show cleavage - including the ghost) - with the expected dangle off the cliffs finish and the guilty party justifably trampled by the ghost girl's faithful horse. Written by John Leekley; directed by Michael Toshiyuki Ono.

First published in this form here.

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