The Haunting of Sorority Row / The Gathering 

Lifetime's original movies are some of the worst cable has to offer. When I saw it had delved into supernatural horror for a recent batch of DVDs —? including "Devil's Diary," "Hush Little Baby" and "Still Small Voices" —? I wondered, "Interesting ... how bad could they be?"

The answer, in the case of 2007's "The Haunting of Sorority Row," is an insufferable 86 minutes' worth. "Gossip Girl" starlet Leighton Meester glams herself down for this rather mild ghost story. As meek freshman pledge Samantha, she's the victim of the ultimate hazing when, at 2:12 a.m. every morning (taking a page from "The Amityville Horror"), the house gets, like, really cold.

Other spooky things happen, and not just the icy glares of her bitchy big sisters. Those peers start to suffer untimely deaths in the house, and the big reveal is as "meh" as all the limp scenes that come before. It's hard to imagine anyone being scared by this, but certainly they're out there ... and should be embarrassed.

Much better is "The Gathering," but it's still mediocre in the general scheme of things. This three-hour miniseries from 2007 boasts a real jump in production value, which alone accounts for my down-turned thumb's 30-some-degree clockwise turn. The ever-reliable Peter Gallagher stars as Dr. Michael Foster, who leads quite the charmed life until the day his hot wife (Kristin Lehman) just flat-out disappears after a night of man-and-wife pot-smoking and lovemaking.

The doc is under suspicion for her vanishing act, with Det. Gamble (the great Hugh Dillon of the great "Durham County" TV series) all up in his face with questions and accusations. To make matters worse, the doc's daughter (Jenna Boyd) starts pulling all that teenage angst crap. Don't ask how, but it all leads to witches, and the slo-mo appearance of a raven in his home is his first clue, and our first inkling that something cool might be afoot, but it never does.

"Sopranos" daughter Jamie-Lynn Sigler is not credible in her role, but Peter Fonda is. Aside from a so-so story and some dicey acting, "The Gathering"'s biggest problem is — you guessed it —? its elongated running time. The plot simply isn't compelling enough to justify the length, and viewers who stick it out for the whole thing are likely to be either pissed or puzzled by the ending. —?Rod Lott

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Rod Lott

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