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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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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