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The Haunting In Connecticut (2009)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
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Overall Rating 62%
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Ranked #1,328
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Virginia Madsen
Virginia Madsen
Kyle Gallner
Kyle Gallner
Elias Koteas
Elias Koteas
Amanda Crew
Amanda Crew
Martin Donovan
Martin Donovan
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Review by Chad
Added: October 09, 2011
I've been in the mood for a good haunted house flick recently, so I decided to look into The Haunting in Connecticut, a fairly popular horror film from a few years back that I initially passed on. I wasn't sure what it was about beyond the obvious, having never seen a trailer or read anything about it, so I went in blind - only knowing that it was supposedly based on true events. Confirming or denying those claims is beyond the scope of this review, though I will say that there is evidence online and in print that both supports and debunks them, so I'm merely going to focus on the film at hand. It was, well... let's do the synopsis first.

The film centers around Sara Campbell (Virginia Madsen) and her son Matt (Kyle Gallner), and as we quickly find out, Matt is dying from cancer. His mother is constantly taking him back and forth to the doctor for his treatments, and the long distance between there and home is taking a toll on them. So, Sara talks it over with her husband (Martin Donovan), and even though money is tight, they decide to move themselves, their other two kids, and their live-in niece (Amanda Crew) to Connecticut to be a little closer to Matt's doctors.

Of course, you know what happens next. They move into a haunted house, Matt starts seeing and hearing strange things, and come to find out, this house used to be a funeral home run by necromancers. Gee, I wonder why the house is haunted? Anyway, Matt eventually meets a fellow named Reverend Popescu (Elias Koteas) at the hospital, and Popescu may have some answers for him in regards to how to get rid of the spirits inhabiting the house. From there... well, you're just going to have to watch if you want to know where it goes from there.

Let me just get it out of the way: when you boil it all down, I enjoyed The Haunting in Connecticut. I didn't love it and I'm not going to heap praise on it, but I was in the mood for a haunted house flick and this one satisfied that craving rather nicely. It doesn't do anything that you haven't seen before in other movies of this nature and it does have a handful of problems, but when you look at the big picture, it is entertaining enough. There is a good story here, the characters are convincing, and of course, there are a couple of spooky scenes to keep things interesting.

Now, the film does have its fair share of problems, I'll also go ahead and throw that out there. Chief among them is the abundance of false scares and "stingers" - you know, where the character will be walking down a hallway, the musical score will slowly build up, and then BAM! The orchestra, not whatever happens to be on the screen, attempts to make you jump out of your seat. I absolutely loathe these things, but I'm used to them and can overlook one or two of them in a horror movie; hell, it's almost a staple of horror these days. However, this movie went overboard with them, and when we're getting one in every other scene (sometimes even two per scene), it starts to get a little old and cheapens the overall product.

I was also a little iffy on the acting. Virginia Madsen is my biggest complaint here, but she was a mixed bag: in some scenes, she is absolutely great and commands your attention, but in others, she is laughably bad. I think that a couple of retakes would have tightened things up considerably in this regard. Kyle Gallner is pretty good as the cancer-stricken son, and though his performance here was nothing to rave about, it was nothing to complain about either. I'll give him a thumbs up, but that's about it.

Speaking of characters, one other thing that really struck me was Martin Donovan's character: his was a character that seemed thrown in just to give the actor some screen time. I mean, his character is pathetically underdeveloped, and he could have been left out entirely with no harm done to the film as a whole. Why was he even here, wasting our time? It's not a knock on the actor, just some lazy scripting - you either make him an important part of the story, or you write him out.

Finally, my last big complaint about the movie. This is another one of those horror staples that is not exclusive to this film, but I still think that the filmmakers went overboard with it. There are way too many scenes that have absolutely zero relevance to the big picture, but are inserted merely to show a quick scare or to give the actors a little more time to shine... and are then totally forgotten about. For example, one scene finds Matt so scared that he barricades himself behind a wall of tables and chairs and scratches the walls so bad this his fingernails are ripped off. It's a good scene, but it is immediately followed by everyone acting happy and cheery as though nothing ever happened. Really? It's almost as if they made the movie, then decided to shoot some additional scenes and just randomly insert them throughout the movie.

Still, for all its faults, I did enjoy the movie. Like I said, I didn't love it, and as this review will show, I'll readily admit that it has its share of problems. However, for those looking for an entertaining haunted house movie, you could do a whole lot worse. 6/10.
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