April 4, 2009

Movie Review: The Haunting in Connecticut

thehauntinginconnecticut2_largeIt seems like forever since we have had a legitimately good haunted house story hit the big screen. The last ones I can remember are The Grudge and The Amityville Horror, both remakes and certainly questionable quality (for the record, I prefer The Grudge). There have been plenty of ghost-related stories, but they generally tended towards the J-horror style creepy dead girls with long black hair that walk funny and make odd noises, nothing in a true haunted house story. Then the trailers began popping up for The Haunting in Connecticut, and hope was born. The clips looked genuinely creepy and the washed out palette just helped feed into the creepy atmosphere and helped get me excited for a good haunted house tale. Also, do not forget the poster that oozed odd and evoked feelings of the 1980's.

The Haunting in Connecticut is based on the true account of the Parker family who moved into a home in Connecticut in 1986 in order to be closer to the hospital where their son was receiving cancer treatment. Shortly after arriving, the boy started seeing apparitions in the house. That is when all hell seemed to break loose in this quiet Connecticut community.

thehauntinginconnecticutpic3As the movie begins, we are introduced to the Campbell family. The year is 1986 and Matt Campbell (Kyle Gallner) is suffering from an aggressive form of cancer. Matt is undergoing some radical treatment at a Connecticut hospital. The trip to and from the hospital is taxing on the family as they struggle to help him defeat his illness. To help make things easier, they move into a nice looking home, not unlike the one the real-world Parker's moved into. It seems to have everything they need, plus a little secret. It is this secret that will threaten to tear the world out from under the Campbells.

You see, this house once functioned as a funeral home. Not only that, it was a place where dark rituals took place. The man running the home found himself a powerful medium who was learned in the ways of speaking to the dead through seances and a mysterious substance called ectoplasm (no, not the Ghostbusters variety). Before long, Matt is being haunted with visions of these rituals and the medium. They are rather frightening and appear to wish harm upon the family.

The tale is pretty straightforward and would be pretty easy to walk you through step by step, but where is the fun in that? So far as haunted house tales go, this one is pretty solid, and that is also its problem. It is far and away the best pure haunted house tale to hit theaters in some time, but it is far from perfect.

My biggest issue with the film is the over-reliance on jump scares. They came with such regularity that you could almost time them, not unlike ticking up an incline on a roller coaster before cresting and falling almost straight down only to reset and do it again. I have nothing against the jumps, only their overuse and my own annoying susceptibility to their insidious ability to make me tense without actually being afraid.

thehauntinginconnecticutpic2My other issue lies with the story. The big picture is fine, I just do not feel the screenplay from Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe digs quite deep enough. I recognize the tight rope they needs to be navigated when telling a story like this and the generally do a decent job. However, for as admirable a job as they did, I still feel like there are holes that need to be plugged. I would have liked more information about those who worked in the funeral home and more about the priest who offers his assistance, played by Elias Koteas.

The performances are solid all around, anchored by Kyle Gallner as Matt and Virginia Madsen as Sara. I was convinced that they were under an attack from the other side. They really sold their performances, diving into the idea of being visited by a variety of ill-meaning spectres. I also got a good feeling that they are an actual family.

On the technical side of the coin, there is little to fault the film with. Peter Cornwell does a solid job directing the film, keeping the story moving, and developing an atmosphere suitable to support the heebie jeebies.

Bottomline. This is a fine, if flawed, haunted house story and well worth spending a little time with. It is a technically sound and involving tale of a family under siege from forces they do not understand. Could it have been better? Certainly, but how many films are perfect? This is an imperfect feature that will succeed in making you squirm.

Mildly Recommended.


Post a Comment