If The Haunting in Connecticut feels familiar, you’re not alone. It seems like the fast track to getting a story from the written page to the screen is claiming paranormal phenomena in an old house, whether it’s true or not. No less than seven films and TV shows regarding The Amityville Horror, a similar case, have been made and Hollywood hasn’t been able to resist even fictional yarns such as The Others in recent years. As the sub-genre goes, The Haunting in Connecticut is a serviceable entry that benefits from some genuinely creepy atmosphere. It’s better before it starts trying to explain itself.
The Haunting in Connecticut is loosely based (yes, we do get the usual “based on the true story” title card) on the claims of Al and Carmen Snedeker, who occupied the house in question in Southington, Connecticut in the late 80’s. According to the Snedeker’s, the house was a veritable horror house of paranormal spirits, ghosts, and activities. The film tells its story from the vantage point of the Campbell’s, a seemingly all-American family. The oldest son, Matt (Gallner), has cancer and requires an increasing number of treatments. To make the commute shorter and easier, mother Sara (Madsen) makes an “executive decision” and purchases an old home near the treatment center. The family moves in, unaware of the home’s history, and literally that night the horror begins.
Seasoned veterans of the genre will have plenty of opportunities to yell things at the screen, such as “yeah, why are you going to the dark basement alone?” or “this is now day seven of this unadulterated terror; why are you still in the house?” The first half is certainly intriguing, as we learn bit by bit what used to occupy the home. Director Peter Cornwell has a knack for creating an atmosphere of dread and anxiety, though his proclivity for jump scares eventually wears very thin. It’s the kind of movie you want to watch on mute when it comes to DVD to see if it’s really that scary. Alas, once it finally comes time for the film to explain itself (in between several half-baked subplots), it falls short.
The cast is strong. Virginia Madsen rarely disappoints and she turns in a good effort here. The layer involving a son with cancer adds unavoidable depth to the story, and Madsen is powerful when the script calls for it. Kyle Gallner is the star of the show and delivers an undeniably eerie performance as Matt. The kid has chops. Elias Koteas is also worthy of a mention as Reverend Popescu, a man who is also suffering from cancer but has a theory as to how to rid the house of the spirits.
The Haunting in Connecticut offers nothing new to the genre, but sometimes a foreboding atmosphere and a couple of legit scares are all it takes. As the story begins to mount, along with the haphazard special effects, the film loses some steam, but it never loses intensity on the whole. It’s one of those movies where the reactions of those around you may be more entertaining than the film itself.
Studio: Lions Gate Films
Length: 92 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of terror and disturbing images.
Theatrical Release: March 27, 2009
Directed by: Peter Cornwell
Written by: Adam Simon & Tim Metcalfe.
Cast: Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Elias Koteas, Amanda Crew, Martin Donovan, Sophi Knight