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Living with the Dead (2002)

TV Movie  -   -  Drama | Sci-Fi | Crime  -  28 April 2002 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 998 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 2 critic

A man begins to have disturbing visions of dead people, among whom are his mother and victims of a local serial killer. The detective investigating the murders looks to him for help in solving the case.



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Title: Living with the Dead (TV Movie 2002)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Van Praagh
Detective Karen Condrin
Regina Van Praagh
Adrian, Psychic
Donna White
Young James Van Praagh
Joy Coghill ...
Mrs. Ziff
Maggie Blue O'Hara ...
Sandy - Andy's deaf sister
Allan Van Praagh
Andy, Abducted Boy
Neil Denis ...
Dennis Branston
Mikela Jay ...
Young Regina Van Praagh (as Mikela J. Mikael)
Young Allan Van Praagh


A man begins to have disturbing visions of dead people, among whom are his mother and victims of a local serial killer. The detective investigating the murders looks to him for help in solving the case.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The dead are talking. One man is listening.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content, and thematic elements | See all certifications »




Release Date:

28 April 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Talking to Heaven  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


James Van Praagh, the author of the book this film is based on and real-life version of Ted Danson's character, appears in this film as the organ player. See more »


References The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

A stunning mystery masterpiece
8 February 2006 | by (Klagenfurt, Austria) – See all my reviews

Talking to Heaven aka Living with the Dead is based on the book by James van Praagh, one of America's most famous mediums. He is also the main character, played by Ted Danson. The movie features the story of James' ability to connect with dead people and traces his supernatural gift back to his childhood. Now he is in his forties. When his mother (Diane Ladd) dies everything comes back and his abilities grow stronger. Mysterious things start to happen, dead boys haunt James and want him to do something. James is baffled and starts investigating with the help of detective Karen Condrin (Mary Steenburgen). While they come across a 30-year-old murder case involving seven young boys, James delves deeper into the mysteries and finds evidence of a connection to his own past. But their time is running out and the life of another boy (Reece Thompson) is on the line.

The story is very complex and sophisticated. You never stop making your own assumptions and the numerous subtle hints and connections between times and places give the story tremendous strength and add substantial quality to the plot. I have seen many mystery movies and thrillers, but hardly any is able to match the suspense and the complexity of Talking to Heaven. Despite its length of almost three hours and due to the wonderfully paced unraveling of mysteries and the ability of Ted Denson in particular to maintain the level of suspense, the story keeps the audience alert and never becomes slow or corny. There are so many connections and hints, so many scenes that are simply awesome and so many sub-plots with underlying themes and messages that Talking to Heaven can be called a revelation and a stunning mystery masterpiece.

The strongest aspect of the story is the link between the murder of the boys and James' own past. This makes him emotionally very much attached to the crime story and is perfectly connected to the introductory sequences that feature him as a boy. Everything is a puzzle at the outset and there is never a point in the course of the story where you could predict what is going to happen next. Very few movies achieve this level of unpredictability.

James' life and his struggles make up a significant part of the story, especially his relationship and his ensuing contact with his late mother. She provides some sort of guidance for him and makes him understand the issue of death and accept his gift as a blessing rather than a curse. The relationships with his father (veteran Jack Palance) and his friend Midge (Queen Latifah) have no immediate connection to the crime story, but provide substantial depth for understanding him as a character. The many scenes in which James talks to strangers about their late relatives collaborates to get a sense of his abilities and the mysteries of his life.

The murder case is the core of the story, its major strength and the main source of suspense. Even without the mystery aspect, this would make an awesome thriller. Mary Steenburgen as detective Condrin acts as a kind of buffer between the supernatural background story and the terrific real-life murder case and helps to combine the strengths of both. There are many pieces that need to be collected, many assumptions that need to be made and many secrets that need to be unraveled.

A major sub-theme is the story of Eddie Kats (James Kirk) and his mother. Their paths are a significant part of the story and add another very sophisticated emotional level. The scenes that feature Eddie and James reminded me very much of thematic elements that pervade the writings of Stephen King, who makes strong use of these cross-time stories that appeal emotionally and make you think about values and life in general. A similar pattern surfaces in the story of Reece Thompson's character, who is terrorized and trying to escape death. Both boys (Thompson and Kirk) are perfectly cast and deliver superb performances – though they appear on entirely different settings. They shine and add authenticity to the story, in particular on an emotional level.

Talking to Heaven is a combination of different genres. It features a complex and outstandingly sophisticated storyline, awesome actors and so many sub-themes that culminate in an entirely stunning and satisfying climax that leaves you at the edge of your seat. The final denouement connects with all the layers of setting, both time and place, and by then you realize the complexity and quality of the story. A brilliant mystery masterpiece by all means.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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