Hi, folks. It’s me, Neil, back with yet another horror movie to casually dissect, dismember, and sort out all of its parts for you on the cold slab of critique.
With “The Haunting in Connecticut” we get an extended family on hard times moving to a house across state lines because one member, Matt Campbell (played by Kyle Gallner), is suffering from cancer. There he undergoes some experimental treatment that takes its toll on him, so this house is closer to the clinic and there’s less travel time. Really.
But even when the family finds out that the house used to be an old funeral home where the owner and his son would perform rituals to talk with the dead, they still decide to stay, because their medical bills are so high and the house is such a deal. Right; after finding all these old photos of people lying in caskets and being propped up on sofas with their loved ones, they still thought it was worth staying there. And if that weren’t enough, then after discovering the owner had a penchant for holding séances using his medium son, they STILL thought, “Hey, the rent is so cheap!” Why do people that make horror movies keep expecting us to believe people would do that? Who would actually stay in that house?
Then Matt decides to choose the basement with the mysterious door to the embalming room as his bedroom. What? Isn’t that just pulling the Devil’s tail? You know, if you poke an angry lion with a stick, it’s gonna poke back. Similarly, if you force a bunch of spirits to amplify your “talking to the dead” powers, those spirits are gonna, well, poke back with a vengeance. I’m just sayin’.
This movie starts out pretty creepy, and it certainly has plenty of “gotcha” scares throughout. However, the whole “we fear what we don’t understand” angle only works when we don’t understand everything. We want some information, but when you lay it all out for us, somehow the scares just don’t have the potency they did before. This is part of this movie’s problem. The other problems are the conflicting acting styles of mom, Virginia Madsen and the dad, Martin Donovan. Their differing tones make for a married couple with no chemistry. The sick son, Kyle Gallner, is anywhere from merely adequate, to wooden.
Elias Koteas, who I like, always makes me chuckle because he played Casey Jones in the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie. Here he plays the prerequisite priest that always seems to be in these haunted house/person movies. His character is also in treatment for cancer, which is how he meets Matt. How convenient. His acting tone is good here, but he just found a mediocre script.
On top of that, there are some moments that get a bit sappy and Virgina Madsen does a fair amount of praying to God to not let cancer take him from her. Better start praying the evil spirits don’t take him – or maybe to let another script like “Sideways” fall into her hands.
This thing has some good seat-jumping scares, but in the end that’s most of what this amounts to. It’ll make a good rental. I say choose laughs instead of scares in this case, and go see, “I Love You, Man”.
–Neil T. Weakley, average movie-goer, reminding you not to sleep in the basement of a haunted house/funeral home where séances were performed. You’d think that was a no-brainer, right?