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Hal MacDermot [Celluloid 03.27.09] movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Peter Cornwell
Writers: Adam Simon & Tim Metcalfe
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 6.4 out of 10

The Haunting in Connecticut is a not quite scary enough retelling of a true life/death 1980s ghost story. Sara and Peter Campbell’s son Matt is sick with cancer, and to be nearer the hospital, they move into an old Victorian house in upstate Connecticut. Unfortunately for all of them, the house used to be owned by a mortician who used mutilated dead people and a boy-medium to commune with the Other Side. The very pale Matt, already close to death’s door, starts to have his dreams invaded by the gruesome ghosts and visions of the mortuary’s cruel history. Tone-wise, more Amityville than Others.

I know you’re gagging to know what that stuff coming out of his gob is in the poster, so I’ll just tell you, it’s ectoplasm, which as tells us:

“…is a strange, visible, semi-fluid substance that is believed to emanate from the body of a physical medium/spiritualistic medium. The phenomenon usually occurs while mediums are either in communication with the dead or in a trance. In relation to the transparent corporeal presence of a spirit or ghost, ectoplasm is the immaterial or ethereal substance defining its shape.” Now you know.

The Campbell’s move in and only Matt notices the cacophony of creaking stairs, and the porch support pillar that seems to contain rotting flesh. Matt’s on heavy medication, so he’s not sure if he’s dreaming or not, and he doesn’t want to admit the visions or they might stop the life saving meds. As the ghosts get fuller on, it becomes impossible for Matt to fake it, and when his cousin finds a box of dried eyelids, she knows something must be up too. Although the scares are a bit too obvious (mirrors, glass, cellars, dumb waiters), I will admit that I did jump a few times, although too much of that was due to overkill sound FX rather than dramatic story telling. BOO! By the way, never try and play hide and seek in an old haunted house, it’s just bound to end badly.

The special FX are high quality and I still have the image of dead people with letters in blood cut into them all over. The use of sepia tones for the back in time stuff was well done, if not especially original. I was interested to find out that in reality, the Haunting of the Snedeker family (Campbell in the film) was actually investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren, the demonologists who also investigated Amityville. Maybe it’s time for a movie about the Lorraines.

I did like the performances. Firstly, I thought Virginia Madsen (Sideways) did a great job as Mom Worried About Son, and I was very pleased to see the great Martin Donovan as ex-alcoholic Dad, failing to hold it together. Donovan plays in tons of Hal Hartley movies, who is one of my favorite directors. His role here as Alchi-Dad is somewhat superfluous to the plot, but that’s more a script problem than Donovan’s. As the visions intensify, Matt meets Father Popescu (Elias Koteas), a priest with cancer and an awful lot of insight into the ways of the dead. I really liked Koteas as the understated man with knowledge of the other side type. Finally, the whole family gets the place is evil, God knows how it took them so long, and why they didn’t move, but anyway. I thought the resolution was an anti-climax, even if it’s true. Conclusion: not scary enough, looked good, bit clumsy in story. Oh, end note, Cornwall’s did a short called Ward 13 which sounds amazing.

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Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

I'm always a little skeptical about movies like this. Why is it that The Exorcist still manages to be the best of its kind after so many years?

I'll probably netflix it.


Ben Austwick (12 years ago) Reply

The trailer for this made it seem pretty scary and I was looking forward to a good old-fashioned haunted house movie with lots of scares. Hmm. I think I'll still go and see it but I'll keep my expectations low.

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