The Haunting in Connecticut Directed by: Peter Cornwell Cast: Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Elias Koteas Time: 1 hr 20 min Rating: PG 13
Plot:A mother (Madsen) moves into a creepy ex-mortuary in order to be closer to the hospital, where her son (Gallner) is receiving chemotherapy. Like you’d expect from a creepy ex-mortuary, the house turns out to be possessed by a gaggle of ill-tempered spirits.
Who’s It For? Ghost story addicts, such as myself.
Expectations: I’ve reached the point where I assume any American made ghost story is going to amount to little more than a pile of caca, but I was still ready to be entertained. My expectations were suitably, though not pessimistically, low.
Actors: Virginia Madsen as Sara Campbell: Madsen has very little impact on the movie’s effectiveness. Here and there she has some quasi-real moments with Gallner, her on-screen son, but you can pretty much take her or leave her. At the same time, she wasn’t a disaster, either, so she gets a solid, numerical “meh.” Score: 4
Kyle Gallner as Matt Campbell: Gallner is like a less ostentatious Robert Pattinson—he’s pretty to look at and he’s surprisingly natural and believable, given he had the hardest role in the film. Gallner does “dying of cancer” quite well; he makes you understand how much pain he’s in without any ham on the side, and that’s a huge plus. He also manages to survive the brutally silly climax with his acting skills intact. Like Zac Efron, I would like to dress him in women’s clothing and play “the cowboy saves the damsel in distress” (I’m the cowboy), but obviously that’s beside the point. Score: 7
Elias Koteas Reverend Popescu: Koteas is our token religious guide on our little jaunt through this preternatural labyrinth of horrors. He has some good insights on the gray area between life and death, and he’s also believably dying of cancer. The character’s pallid, frailty does add a dimension of suspense and discomfort, because he’s hobbling around, trying to save the family (why isn’t Virginia Madsen’s character helping him?). It isn’t his fault that the idiots, like the idiots in every other American ghost movie, ignore his advice and make his life that much harder. Score: 6
Talking: There’s some decent dialogue, which was a surprise. Again, the best exchanges take place between Madsen and Gallner (with Gallner doing most of the heavy lifting), but for the most part it’s natural and manages not to distract from the rest of the story. Score: 6
Sights: The movie gives us some nice, juicy original spooky scenes, but they are sprinkled amidst the recycled and unoriginal, so it’s harder to appreciate it. The bodies carved with necromancer’s writing were excellent and I dug the scene where Matt chases a spirit boy down the stairs only to see him being dragged by the hair out of sight. Score: 7
Sounds: The score can’t make up for the movie’s dramatic short-comings. DAH-DAH-DAHDAHDAH (people are sad), DOOO-DOODOODOO (there’s a cranky spirit in the house)—kill me. It didn’t quite make me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork, but the fact that I even came up with that comparison should give you some idea. Score: 2
Best Scene: A great scene involves the littlest girl playing with her dollhouse, and the decomposing hand hanging just out of her line of vision. The movie does a good job of putting the smaller kids in horrible jeopardy (“Let’s play hide’n seek in the homicidal domicile!”), but again this is before the whole family should know better.
Ending: Holy buckets of crap, Batman! The story itself is still a solid, campfire style ghostly tale, so try to ignore the swooning melodramatic music, the absolute lack of real human behavior, and the platitudinous juxtapositions between the “here” and the “afterlife.”
Questions: There are so many questions, I’ve chosen to put them in bullets: o Why does Matt continue to sleep (soundly, I might add) in the basement once he’s: o Figured out it used to be a morgue o Dreamt of a maligned mortician carving occult symbols in dead bodies o Dreamt of the aforementioned mortician o’ evil cutting off corpses’ eyelids o Been confronted by a charred, snarling demon-ghost-thing o Why does Virginia Madsen’s character continue to leave her kids alone in that god-awful house? Paging Children’s Services. o Why does the hospital put an injured Matt into the same room with a crazy guy who’s talking to himself? Seems like a questionable practice to me. o How do they all continue to sleep so peacefully all alone in their darkened rooms when they’ve all been attacked by angry spirits? o When the angry, drunkard husband breaks all the light bulbs in the house, why doesn’t someone say, “Yo, Daddio, none of us are thrilled with the idea of snoozing in a haunted house without the option of turning on a light”? o What’s with the obligatory “naked teen girl in the shower” post ghostly apocalypse?
Rewatchability: I’d take a glance at it if it was on TNT and there wasn’t anything else on, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way.
OVERALL The first two-thirds of this film does a pretty okay job of providing some scary jolts, but the last act is absurd. We, the audience, need a practical reason why a family would remain in an evil, man-eating house.
For a while, it’s forgivable, because the ghosts put most of their effort into torturing Matt and the rest of the family thinks he’s gone a little nutty as a side effect of the drugs he’s on to treat his cancer. However, once the house unleashes its full fury on all of the family members, there is no excuse for staying. Not only that, but the movie doesn’t even try to give us a lame reason, such as “We don’t have the money to move” or “This is our house and we’re not going anywhere”; the family just remains there like a group of dolts with short-term memory loss. At one point, the teenaged girl (Amanda Crew) even decides to take a relaxing shower and this is AFTER she’s been chased around by a faceless burn victim and an angry flock of phantom birds. Any other human on this planet would take one look at that glowering, malicious house of doom and refuse to shower in it before they’d even heard the first unearthly moan.
It’s important that the main characters in a ghost story aren’t total myopic morons, and if they are, they shouldn’t survive.
Final Score: 5/10