Reviewed by Tristan Sinns
Starring Vanessa Lock, Brett Fleisher, Tyler Reid, Rod Pearson
Directed John Kavanaugh
Distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment
Ghosts can often make a frightening tale, and the creep factor can rise significantly if it’s actually based upon some truth. The Amityville Horror, though quite thoroughly debunked, certainly shook up its share of audiences with its portrayal of an aggressive haunting. On a more brutal level, The Entity, still touted as partially true, showed itself to be a poor choice to take a date to as it gave girls all the wrong sorts of jitters. Going along with the same true tales of ghostly horror, the Discovery channel developed their own A Haunting series, which all started with two feature length pilot episodes. A Haunting in Connecticut was the first of these and aired back in 2002.
The Parker family has a serious crisis on their hands; their teenage son, Paul, is embattled with cancer and frequent trips to the distant hospital force the family to relocate. They find a very affordable home near the hospital and quickly take up residence, only to discover soon after that the house used to be a funeral home that was often frequented by, well, lots and lots of dead people.
The family is significantly disturbed by this revelation, but stays anyway for Paul’s sake. Strange things begin to happen. Mop water turns to blood on the kitchen floor, voices are heard calling Paul into the darkness, lights spark up without any light bulbs at all, and then there’s the nagging fact that the place used to be a way station for corpses. The nightly terrors quickly descend exclusively on the younger members of the family, and the Parker parents go through some pains to insist there’s nothing wrong at all, even going so far as to blame Paul and his medication for the nightly terrors. Once the demonic presence in the home begins to infect and possess Paul, and to drastically change his behavior, the parents are forced to admit the Devil is afoot and begin to seek help in the form of an exorcism.
A Haunting in Connecticut ekes a bit creepy in a few of its scenes of contextual horror. The demonic presence, shown as some strange looking bearded guy with black contact lenses, has a certain dark charisma. Similarly, its many scenes of the teens being horrified by odd happenings they simply don’t understand are bound to have some effect. A lot of the situations have that odd home-style feel about them. They feel more like those “the one time something scary happened to me” sort of stories friends might share with one another and less like scripted events contrived by professional writers.
That’s not to say everything works here; far from it. Those jaded by a lot of modern horror will likely feel under whelmed. A Haunting in Connecticut is a film created for television, and it shows. There are semi-frequent breaks for commercials, which are of course removed for the DVD print, except that the film retains the three minute rehash for those returning from a commercial. It becomes a bit jarring when every twenty to thirty minutes the film stops and reminds the audience of what they’ve just seen.
Similarly, a lot of the story stumbles into the realm of hokey. Paul, once possessed by the evil spirit, turns more emo than demonic, what with his newfound love of dark music and bad poetry. Hokier still is the implication that the evil presence in the home was somehow due to it being a former funeral home. No, there was no suggestion of a string of horrible murders, or ritualized desecration of the dead; just a simple funeral home. Buying into this is just painfully silly. What’s so evil about the dead? The dead are our friends, our families, our loved ones; the dead are our neighbors, nurses, and presidents; the dead are our ancestors, the very string of existence leading up to our own little bubble of consciousness. It is just profoundly limiting to think that the remnants of everyday people would quite naturally attract malevolent demons from hell. Corpses are the natural conclusion of being alive, and are not festering demon magnets attracting sinister forces who want to make you listen to heavy metal and write sad poems (apparently demons dropped influencing teens to play AD&D back in 1988). We need some tragedy or abuse here to make this work, a well known example being Poltergeist; root up those bodies, mistreat them a bit, ruffle their hair and call them Frankie, and then I’ll buy into a cruel haunting for ninety minutes.
This new DVD release of this previously TV experience is about as bare bones as you get. Nifty extras include a titled case in which you might store the DVD, and that’s it. No behind the scenes, commentaries, trailers, or anything else to slow you down; just head straight for the film!
A Haunting in Connecticut is billed as a true story, and I do believe you should make up your own mind about that. Seen as a simple spooky ghost story, the film does have a certain impact, though perhaps a bit tame for those horror jaded among us. Seen as a true documentary, it gets a little goofy. You can’t spell ‘demon’ without ‘emo’ you know. I’ll run with it.
2 1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5
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