At her father's funeral young Sarah (Bethany Ward) witnesses her austere and fragile mother have an episode before running off into the sea never to be seen again, believed to be dead. Fifteen years later and Sarah (Sela Ward - The Man Who Loved Women) having married the handsome Austin (Michael Woods) moves back to the family home much to the shock of her life long friends Lucy (Morgan Fairchild) and Allen (Roscoe Born) who think it is a bad movie although long time housekeeper Mrs Stepford (Polly Bergen - Move Over Darling) is happy to see Sarah home. But soon strange things start to happen such as hearing her mother's harpsichord playing despite no one being in the room and Sarah starts to think that maybe her mother's spirit is haunting her, either that or someone is trying to make her think she is going mad.
In the long tradition of cinema which dates back to at least 1940 with Hitchcock's "Rebecca" we have the set up of a woman being toyed with, made to think that either a spirit is tormenting her or that someone is trying to turn her insane. Unfortunately when it comes to "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy" it attempts to set up a possible haunting aspect with the mother and even tries to qet you questioning whether in fact she is still alive it is far too obvious that this is one of those movies where someone is trying to turn Sarah crazy. It has that lack of subtlety to be anything else with it dropping far too many clues as to what its motives are.
Now as such "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy" sets up various possibilities as to who it is behind all the toying. Could it be Mrs. Stepford who not only feels a little unneeded as a housekeeper but also having been there for Sarah during her childhood feels unappreciated. But there are also her best friends Lucy and Allen, as a child Lucy didn't hide the fact that she liked Sarah's family home whilst Allen always had a thing for Sarah but she was never interested in him. Yet we also have the husband, the handsome Austin who wanted to move into the house, maybe he is up to no good. And so it all comes down to which one or, maybe group of people, are behind the mind games.
Now "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy" is a made for TV movie from the late 80s and it looks every bit of one. There is lots of distant camera work with a lot of it feeling very rigid which makes it difficult to become immersed in the unfolding drama. As such when we get what is meant to be a fright it rarely succeeds because of that lack of intimacy. And as such the acting itself feels remarkably stiff because it is kept at such a distance.
What this all boils down to is that not only is "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy" very much a product of the late 80s but also a less than subtle TV movie which quickly becomes a case of who is behind the mind games rather than what is going on.