Haunting in Connecticut, The (2009)
Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Elias Koteas, Amanda Crew
Directed by Peter Cornwell
It’s been a common occurrence of late, to turn out the most fantastical trailer possible for a film project, regardless of any misleading ideas it might stir up. People attend what they think is a horror film and get a thriller instead. People looking for a murder mystery get a Nineties style gore fest. It happens and I can’t begrudge the marketing team for a clever bait and switch, especially in this economy. Am I leading you down a path to the realization that The Haunting in Connecticut isn’t the horror film they are claiming it is? My odd answer will be ... this is absolutely a horror film, but it’s hardly the one we see in the trailer. Further, this film bears only the slightest resemblance to the actual events claimed to have happened in real life. Does this mean we get an original piece of work with unexpected moments and heavy creeps? Let’s get into it.
The Campbell family has seen better days. Young Matt Campbell (Gallner) is undergoing aggressive cancer treatment that has him puking his guts up several times a day. The treatment is being done hours away from the Campbell’s home, which means Sara Campbell (Madsen) must make the drive as often as is warranted, leaving no time to spare for a job. The sole breadwinner, Peter (Donovan), is struggling to keep it together as a father as well as a recovering alcoholic. At this point, I verify that I am indeed at the movies and not flipping through channels at home, pausing momentarily to figure out if this Lifetime original movie might be more enjoyable than Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. I also lean over to a friend to make sure I wasn’t mistaken with the commercials which REALLY meant to say this film was based on a country song. Surely, in the next scene, something bad will happen to the husband’s truck. Sadly, it comes to pass.
An hour into the film, Matt Campbell has had some experience with bad dreams and things standing in the dark, only to disappear quickly on further inspection. Not a hair has been harmed on the heads of anyone else in the home. Stringed instruments play wildly as children silently move down cavernous hallways. Whispered voices echo as the nubile teen cousin Wendy tip toes around a corner. The sounds popping up in the theater’s speakers are fantastic and I wait excitedly for the tension to build enough to seriously creep me out. Unfortunately, that moment never comes. Instead, two or three fairly decent jump scares frighten my friend and as those moments fade away, we are left with boredom. This is the kind of boredom that comes from watching a film that takes significant time to explore a fragile family dealing with a member stricken with cancer and a father fighting his own urge to drink. Will our brave teen beat the big C? Will dad man-up and toss his bottles in favor of a loving family and beautiful children? At the risk of sounding insensitive ... who gives a fuck? I came here to watch a movie with disturbing entities attacking a family to the point of insanity and at some point, a boy in period clothing will puke ectoplasm into the air in slow motion. Gimme.
Beautiful visuals of barely lit corners of the house compliment superior acting from Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner and Martin Donovan and on down the line to the big eyed children. Elias Koteas arrives as a preacher (also stricken with cancer ~sigh~) to deliver some explanation to why everything happening in the house only seems to be affecting to Matt. His intensity slips right into the quiet of the film like the rolling of a calm sea. So it’s not the cinematography, or the acting, or the sound effects. Even the special makeups are fairly effective, providing some odd creatures that will send chills up your date’s spine. With all this talent and potential, the filmmakers fail to pull together a significant pace to drive an audience to terror. Apparitions stand still and reach for no one. Family members emerge, largely unmolested, save one run in with a rogue shower curtain. Since Matt is the only one to experience the insanity for the bulk of the film, it is even suggested that his cancer treatment may be causing hallucinations!! With little to no impending dread and a tight focus on a family fighting to survive human trauma, what is left to scare us?
PG-13 to the rescue. This is one instance where a teenage crowd will make all the difference. What may seem boring, and at times, laughable to us could give a teenager nightmares. As a die hard horror fan, it takes a hell of a lot more than an eerie hallmark movie to get under my skin. Honestly, I’ve seen more terrifying episodes of "Ghost Hunters" but a young crowd packed with screeching girls can make all the difference. Kids love the horror! If they can survive about an hour of somewhat painful boredom, they might just recommend the film to their friends. BIG might there.
This is just another case of film makers not understanding what truly scares people. Creating and building dread is integral to grabbing your audience and holding on tight. Once you’ve got them locked in, you can jump scare and freak them right into the ground. This convoluted story becomes mired in drama to the point where you’ll care little when you finally find out what is actually in the house. You’ll care even less when they take a stab at a twist ending, performed at the same blistering pace as the rest of the film. Note my sarcasm? The Haunting in Connecticut is not a bad movie, but it certainly is a flawed horror film. Call it an above average Lifetime original movie made for the Halloween season. Call it a superior Sci-Fi channel Saturday night thriller. Call it what it is ... and keep waiting for something that might actually scare you.
2 1/2 out of 5
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