Virginia Madsen - Sara Campbell
Kyle Gallner - Matt Campbell
Martin Donovan - Peter Campbell
Amanda Crew - Wendy Campbell
Elias Koteas - Reverend Nicholas Popescu
Erik J. Berg - Jonah Aickman
Genre - Horror/Supernatural
Running Time - 102 Minutes
Score - 2 Howls Outta 4
PLOT - Matt Campbell (Kyle Gallner) is dying of cancer and his mother Sara (Virginia Madsen) has been driving him miles away from home to be treated at a specialty hospital in Connecticut. Feeling that the constant two-way driving is hurting Matt more than it is helping him, Sara decides to find a house in Connecticut where the family can stay while Matt gets treated. While Matt's younger siblings and his cousin Wendy (Amanda Crew) move in, his alcoholic father Peter (Martin Donovan) shows up time to time because of his job.
As the Campbells stay in their new home, weird things begin to occur. There are old photos of the previous family that used to live there. There are weird sounds and doors in the basement. And Matt starts having dreams and visions of things that happened to the people who used to live in the house. Helped by a cancer-stricken reverend (Elias Koteas), Matt and eventually his family learn about the history of the house and hoping to calm the spirits that are haunting them.
STORY - Supposedly based on a "true story" [aren't they all?], THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT would be a fresh haunted house film if THE EXORCIST, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE HAUNTING, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, POLTERGEIST, and so many others didn't arrive on the scene first. So while the script isn't a whole hell original, at least it's decently written and tells a simple story with good pacing from beginning to end. Too bad a bunch of ideas had to be introduced in order to keep the film interesting. Why?
I just wish these "based on a true story" films would actually narrate the ACTUAL events instead of changing things in order to capture the audience's interest. If the real story wasn't interesting enough as it was, what's the point in spending cash to make a film about it? And even with the changes, the film still isn't creepy or scary enough to really recommend it to those who may be interested.
The characters are developed fairly enough, I guess. Sara and Matt are really the two main characters and get the most screen time, while the others don't really have enough presence or personality for viewers to really give a crap about. My main beef was with the father character. Why was he even added to the film? All he did was get drunk and break a few light bulbs. Other than that, he just wasted my time. As a matter of fact, his whole alcoholism sub-plot didn't mean all that much to the story anyway because it just happened and then it ended really quickly. And why do these people STAY in the house knowing that spirits want to harm them? C'mon! That new dining room set from The Price Is Right can't be that luxurious!
I did like the whole aspect about those who are dying being able to see both planes of existence, meaning life and death. Having Matt and the cancer-stricken reverend being able to see the ghosts and understand their motives is a very interesting concept that totally made sense. Only those who border on death can see these spirits - that's pretty cool. What's not cool is that everyone started seeing these ghosts in the final act after this sub-plot was introduced. Sara can see the ghosts. Wendy can see the ghosts. The siblings can see the ghosts. Stevie Wonder can see the ghosts. I mean, it got ridiculous because what the narrative was telling us at first didn't matter at the end. Big continuity error right there.
All in all, there was just too much drama in this horror film. The ideas were good but they just dragged the experience down. People want to be scared by a ghost story, not confused and borderline bored by it. THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT could have been a lot better if the story was trimmed down a bit.
DIRECTION - Peter Cornwell did an okay job directing the film for the most part. He displayed a lot of stylish shots and had a good eye for telling the story that kept your interest somewhat. Too bad the script wasn't better because he had to resort in ripping off other genre classics, like THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and THE EXORCIST. Also, the film wasn't scary, creepy, or all that suspenseful. A film like this needs tension. There was some but not enough for this type of film. But the cinematography was beautiful and the CGI was done well. I don't really blame Cornwell for the mediocrity of this movie. The screenwriters didn't really give the guy a lot to work with here.
VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - If you count a teen with messages carved into his skin, ectoplasm coming out a medium's mouth, and the shadow of a naked girl getting smothered by a shower curtain edgy, then I guess you'll be satisfied. Otherwise, this film is very tame. No sex, hardly bad language, and minimal violence.
ACTING - Virginia Madsen was on-and-off as Sara. At times she would hit the emotional cues perfectly. But most of the time, she just sleepwalks through the role. The woman can act, but this film didn't really let her use her range. Oh well. Kyle Gallner, who's probably best known for his roles on Veronica Mars and Smallville, does a fantastic job as the cancer-stricken Matt. He's really the main focus of the film and he delivered hands down. His character really wasn't all that interesting on paper, but Gallner fleshed him out and made watching him enjoyable. I really liked him here and I hope his star continues to rise. Elias Koteas also rocked it as Reverend Popescu. I've always liked this guy since his Casey Jones days and I liked him here. He should be in better films. Amanda Crew looked pretty hot as usual but she wasn't given much to do here. And Martin Donovan - well he cashed a nice check for not doing anything but smashing a light bulb or two. And it was phenomenal light bulb smashing, I must say!
MUSIC - The score pretty much set the mood of the film. I don't really remember it but I didn't hate it. I think it actually improved the film.
THE FINAL HOWL
THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT is nothing more than your average ghost flick. There's nothing you haven't seen here that you could probably see in better ghost films. But at least it was better than I was expecting it to be and it kept me entertained throughout. If interested, a watch wouldn't hurt. Otherwise, this film won't haunt you if you skip it.