The Haunting in Connecticut

Maybe you’ve seen the trailer for Friday’s release The Haunting in Connecticut? Possibly? Since they’ve been peddling the pants off this baby? If so, then you’ve probably heard that the advertisements tout this film as “based on true events.”  The husky-voiced fella says it in the trailer, it’s painted on all of the bus-side ads, and they printed it on the poster.

poster by you.

The opening title card for the film goes a step further: “Based on the true story.” Not just events, or even on the more ambiguous “a true story.”

Guys, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat, shall we? This is not a true story. This is looooooosely based on a book that claims to be a true story, but whose author even maintains was almost entirely fabricated. So none of the outlandish events that I’m about to recap below happened, okay? They were either borrowed from that made-up book or written by the screenwriter who wrote all four of the Revenge of the Nerds movies. Not that that isn’t a heady claim to fame.

Virgina Madsen plays Sarah Campbell, the harrowed mother to cancer-ridden teenager Matt, played by Kyle Gallner (Beaver from Veronica Mars and Bart from Smallville). Matt is the participant in an experimental study meant to eradicate his rapidly-flourishing disease. The study is being held at a remote hospital hours from the home Sarah and Matt share with Sarah’s husband, Peter, their younger son Billy and the two cousins they’ve adopted, Mary and Wendy. The long commute is painfully wearing on Matt, and Sarah decides to rent a house nearby, despite the hefty hospital bills and mortgage they’re already juggling.

Sarah spends a day looking for a property large enough for their expansive brood and cheap enough to afford on what little disposable income that remains. Frustrated and exhausted at the end of the day, she sees a “for rent’ sign just as she’s about to give up.

for rent by you.

After checking out the property with the landlord, Sarah utters those ominous words spoken in every haunted house movie ever made: “It’s spacious and affordable. It’s everything we need! I’m just wondering, where’s the catch?”

house2 by you.

The landlord tells her it was once a funeral home, but Sarah decides they’re in such straits that they can’t be hassled by a little thing like that. So they move in! And everyone’s happy! “Pick a room, guys! This place is huge!”

new house happy by you.

Matt chooses the creepy basement with the mysteriously locked annex as his room, because it has its own bathroom and he doesn’t want to be overheard suffering the effects of the chemotherapy. You feel for him that he’s so ashamed of his aches and nausea. But you also want to tell him…dude. Don’t pick that room.

kg9 by you.

Matt begins witnessing chilling images, flickering lights, flashes of blood on the walls and the floor and visions of an intensely creepy young man. However, his experimental treatment can cause hallucinations if the treatment is damaging his brain, and he’s supposed to be removed from the study if he’s experiencing any mysterious visions, so he doesn’t tell anyone. As his family also begins to notice the creepy stuff happening around the house, they all blame Matt, thinking the study is making him crazy.

Like, really crazy.

vmkg2 by you.

One night the locked door in Matt’s room opens of its own accord, and he discovers the house’s morbid history that his mom wanted to keep secret.

morgue by you.

The scares start to mount up and it becomes harder for Sarah, Peter, Wendy and the two littlest kids to ignore that something is spookily amiss in this house. Matt’s cousin Wendy helps him research the history of the house, and they discover that the previous owner, Ramsey Aickman, would hold séances with a young medium named Jonas—the young man Matt has been seeing around the house.

photo by you.

Matt invites the Reverend Kevin Popescu (great name, thanks for showing me his business card so I’d remember it, movie!), another participant in the study and for some reason an expert on the supernatural, over to investigate, and he somehow fuzzily deduces from a box of dried up old eyelids they found (seriously) that Aickman was performing necromancy to amp up the séances so they could really impress the clients and make the big bucks.

And then a bunch of other “scary” shit happens.

Okay! So! Here’s what worked about the film. Kyle Gallner as Matt was seriously, seriously good. He was so convincing with the physical pain he was suffering, as well as the shame and guilt he felt at his parents’ financial troubles and stress. I think Kyle Gallner has the potential to be a big name actor. But I hope that doesn’t mean he won’t come back for more rascally Impulse action on Smallville!

kg5 by you.

SMALLVILLE by you.

Elias Koteas as the Reverend Kevin Popescu was really cool. He has a lot of presence and a wise, trustworthy face. Even though it makes absolutely no sense that this Protestant reverend would be an expert on necromancy, demons, the supernatural and séances, you kind of believe him anyway. Because he’s Elias Koteas.

ek by you.

Also, Matt’s cousin Wendy (Amanda Crew) was really cute. I just kind of liked her. Based on nothing, really, but this movie was pretty boring and I wasn’t bored when she was on. Because pretty!

research 2 by you.

And the whole half hour bit in the middle where Wendy, Matt and Reverend Popescu (I’m loving typing that name) stop getting scared and start doing some serious investigating into resolving this little abode issue was the only somewhat gripping (wow, I’m using that word loosely) section of the movie. They even prayed! With their hands around a table! Which of course brought on a vision of a séance, because hello, you’re in a haunted house.

praying by you.

seance2 by you.

Finally, the ectoplasm (which is that shit coming out of the kid’s mouth on all the posters) that emanates from Jonas when he’s mediating the spirits looked seriously cool. It wasn’t scary, but it looked cool.

ecto by you.

ecto2 by you.

What was bad about this movie? Everything else! Haunting in Connecticut was oh so boring and derivative. It had this totally dated early-2000s choppy-editing vibe to it. It was like, “Woah, that doctor’s appointment lasted 2 sentences? Wait, now it’s night again?” The pacing was just all wrong. The end seemed to last for the entire second half of the film. Seriously, the climax was about 70 minutes in.

Also, Virginia Madsen totally phones it in as the tormented mother of a dying son. I mean, she had some moments of true feeling:

vmsscared by you.

but having recently watched Candyman and knowing what she’s capable of, I was like, “Sure, lady, you’re sad your son’s dying. I buy it.” (Not that I blame her for phoning it in for this movie, because it is NO Candyman.) The movie actually had a “parental anguish” montage, set to music! Where Sarah and Peter did a lot of sad stuff because Matt’s dying! SET TO MUSIC. In five minutes. Because that’s a lot more moving than, I don’t know, writing or ACTING.

Peter’s a recovering alcoholic, which could have added some real complications to this family’s increasing misfortune. But instead of dealing with that in a realistic way, the filmmakers chose to make his one alcoholic outburst when he breaks EVERY SINGLE LIGHTBULB in the house because his scared family was sleeping with the lights on. And then he apologizes. Nice deus ex machina, morons. Just have the freaking GHOSTS turn off the lights!

drunk dad by you.

This movie was just not scary. At all. I actually wrote in my notes in three different places, “Not scared.” The first real “shock” takes so long to build up as Wendy is looking at her reflection for seemingly hours, the audience is just like, “Okay, alright already, we know it’s coming, now ‘scare’ us.” There are so many reflection “scares” in the movie. Don’t look in a mirror! Or a window! Or a shiny plate! Ever!

kgmorgue by you.

Another thing everyone who has ever lived in a haunted house should avoid? Maybe TAKING A SHOWER IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE. Or a bath, ladies. Let’s just try to eschew bathing in general when it comes to scary poltergeist-ridden homes, okay?

shower by you.

shower curtain by you.

shower cousin by you.

The other method of “frightening” the audience the film utilizes is LOTS of people lurking!

dr by you.

lurking by you.

And also LOTS of people sleeping:

vmsleeping by you.

sleeping cousin by you.

sleepy boy by you.

kg8 by you.

And sometimes? They show people lurking. WHILE people are sleeping!:

scary by you.

Okay, so the Reverend Popescu initiates a totally fruitless exorcism and then tells the family they should be safe after a few days. But the next few days, “some strange things could happen,” like aftershocks of an earthquake. Of course, even though the Campbells own another house where they could easily take refuge, they decide to stick it out. Sure!

And then a bunch more “scary” shit happens.

kg16 by you.

morgue3 by you.

vmscared2 by you.

skin house by you.

And then there is an utterly ludicrous “resolution” that makes not one fucking iota of sense, and I guess the house is fire-cleansed after a “terrifying” “climax” of “action”!

ghosts by you.

And then it’s all better! And then. Seriously. The film has the motherfreaking NERVE to put a title card up before the closing credits that lets us know that Matt Campbell was cured of his cancer after the events of the film, and that no other residents have experienced any disturbances in the home.

GAH!

Maybe because there WAS no Matt Campbell, and if he had cancer it sure as hell WASN’T cured by all the ghost-torching, AND ALSO THERE NEVER WERE ANY DISTURBANCES IN THAT HOME TO BEGIN WITH.

Don’t believe everything you read on the title cards, kids!

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8 Responses to “The Haunting in Connecticut”

  1. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  2. I have to say that Kyle Gallner really bothers me. I can’t stand his sneering brand of anguish. Especially in Veronica Mars, that scene on the roof, I mean, it’s a great show, but he’s just the same little sneering weird-faced boy in everything.
    And for the rest of it, thank you for sparing me the pain of falling for an ad campaign that its far more thought-out than the movie.

  3. i really, really, REALLY hope the director and/or screenwriter of this film reads this review. first, because it’s hilarious. second, because it’s OBVS double true.

    i mean, even though i haven’t seen the movie myself. i trust you, marla pants.

    although i have to say, this is totally the kind of horror movie i could actually watch, but only if i was allowed to sit next to you so we could yawn snort together.

  4. xymarla Says:

    Actually, Jon, I totally agree that Kyle Gallner is SO annoying and sneery and over-acty in Veronica Mars, but he’s actually not at all in this. I think that one picture I chose was way too Beaver-y. And on Smallville, he’s a super-fun, rogueish, smart-ass superhero and he does that really well. This kid has potential! When he’s not acting what Rob Thomas writes for him, that is.

    Sarah–next slumber party movie??

  5. HA HA HA… no.

  6. xsmart-assx Says:

    i think kyle gallner was a great actor for this movie evn though it was all fake…he might have frowned or sneered a lot but come on his character was going to die soon i dont think any of you would be very happy knowng that you were to die soon…

  7. wow i just got done watching the movie and its pretty scary i noly got one queston was RAMSEY ACIKMAN really real if you want to contact me to tell me than my e-mail is allixjones@yahoo.com THIS IS ONLY FOR INFO ON RAMSEY ACIKMAN <3 :P

  8. No dude. He was not real.

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