Writers: Adam Simon, Tim Metcalfe
Director: Peter Cornwell
Cast: Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Elias Koteas, Amanda Crew, Martin Donovan, Sophi Knight, Ty Wood, Erik J. Berg, John Bluethner, D.W. Brown, John B. Lowe, Adriana O’Neil
Theatrical Release: March 27, 2009
DVD Release Date: July 14, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $23.99
“Based on a true story” movies can be a funny thing. I often see that tagline on horror movies though when you see the flesh eating cannibal come out of the woodwork it’s easy to see that it’s based about as far as one of the character’s names and the city that they live in. However, every now and then a movie will come around that is filled with falsities, but has a little bit of truth to it, too. The Haunting in Connecticut is one of those movies.
This is supposed to be based on a true story. The people that lived it swear by their story, though others do not believe the story to the lengths that it has been told. The movie version has the basic details correct. The house is in Connecticut, the boy begins seeing and feeling the presence of the ghosts/demons first, and the details in that respect are basically how things went.
In real life, the story goes a little bit differently. According to the parents, the house, which was once a funeral home, did contain the presence of demons. Not only that, but the demons apparently raped them. Obviously moments like this are not in the film. The family claims that after the mother learned that the home had been a funeral parlor her son began exhibiting weird behavior. How much of the family’s story is true may never be known. Some people believe their story and others claim that they cannot keep their stories straight and deem it as being unreal. Whether or not you believe it is strictly up to you.
The movie version of The Haunting in Connecticut begins with that infamous “Based on a True Story.” In the end, that really says all that needs to be said. Some of this is “true” and other parts are not. How much you want to believe any of this will probably be relative to how much you enjoy the movie. If you’re hoping to see a true story and are looking for what could have happened and what didn’t happen, then you might not have a good time. However, if you’re looking to watch something for entertainment sake that has that thriller appeal to it, Haunting shouldn’t be so bad for you.
The cast is competent enough. Virginia Madsen (Long Gone, Wonder Woman) has the lead, of sorts, playing the mother, Sara. Sara is married to Peter (Martin Donovan – Weeds), a man with a drinking problem. They have three kids, Matt (Kyle Gallner – Big Love), being the most prominent, who has cancer.
Overall this isn’t a bad film. You have to look at it for what it is worth though. For starters, this is a PG-13 film. It’s not as scary as some of the better movies, but for that creepy haunting tale it succeeds on a moderate level. The biggest problem with this is that it’s not entirely scary. Sure, there are creepy moments, but on some levels it becomes predictable and on others, it is merely entertaining.
The acting definitely saves this one. It’s hard to say what it might have been like with better writing because the writer was going off of a story that was in part, true, and adding PG-13 elements to piece together a film. Naturally, any sort of sodomizing that the parents claimed happened is not going to be seen in a PG-13 flick.
The Haunting in Connecticut Plot
It’s 1987 and Matt Campbell (Gallner) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Though the prognosis is bleak, Matt is just a teenager and his parents aren’t ready to give up on him just yet. He is accepted in a cancer trial that may be able to help him, so his mother (Madsen) makes the long, few hours trek with him when he needs to have his treatments at a hospital in Connecticut. Of course, the drive after the treatment is excruciating on Matt, so much so that he can barely handle it. This prompts his mom and dad (Donovan) to consider renting a house in Connecticut so that he can be closer to the hospital.
Without too much discussion, during a treatment trip, Matt has an incredibly hard time and his mom decides that it’s the right thing to do to rent a home. She finds one that is perfect, but it has a past. She ends up taking the home because Matt is having such a hard time, she can’t bring herself to make him take the drive back. Needless to say, the two stay in the house alone the first night and the family has plans of making the drive shortly thereafter.
Matt chooses to sleep in the basement bedroom. There is a bathroom down there and it’s private. Of course, there is also a spare room that no one can seem to get into initially. Soon after the family moves in, Matt begins to change. He has hallucinations and he has moments where his personality changes. After a series of unfortunate accidents while the kids are playing in the house, Matt finds a box of photos under the floorboards in the attic. The box is filled with séance pictures along with a boy named Jonah; one of the boys that he had seen in the house on numerous occasions. He also finds a box of eyelids, though he isn’t quite sure what they are, as they are quite old.
From there, Matt does some research and learns the truth behind the house. It was in fact a funeral home, owned by Doctor Aickman in the 1920s. Aickman often did séances, for a price, to settle the deeds of the dead. To accomplish this he made use of a boy named Jonah that seemed to have a gift with the spirits. One day, something expelled from Jonah’s mouth during a séance that exploded and burnt everyone in the house alive. The house is filled with the spirits of the dead that have been unable to rest. It is up to Matt to save himself and his family from the house or suffer the consequences, whatever they might be.
The Haunting in Connecticut comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1 transfer with 1080p. The results are certainly worthwhile. Due to the nature of the film you get a chance to see two specific worlds. There are the shots and scenes in the hospital and prior to the move to Connecticut where the colors are bright and there are a variety of open shots in different angles. Slowly, the film becomes darker once the family is in the Connecticut house. The shots become grimmer and the colors fade to a darker palette.
There are moments of grain and noise beyond what is meant to be there (many scenes use this to show age/timeline differences and flashbacks). The colors are decent, the blacks work well, and there really are not too many problems to mention. The detail is good, but it’s also not as impressive as I have seen in other films. Still, for what it’s worth there isn’t a great deal to complain about.
Haunting makes use of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless track that is full bodied and horror friendly. It would have sounded amazing had there been some more frights to go with this kind of sound backing. You manage to hear even the slightest whisper, which is incredibly important in a movie such as this. Everything is right on target from the screams in various parts of the house to the slight crick of the floorboards as the house settles.
Volume toggling was not a real issue and dialogue always remains clear and crisp. Along with the dialogue and special effects, the soundtrack did a good job at pushing the story in the right direction. Haunting also offers a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track and subtitles in English and Spanish.
If you’re interested in this film and the story behind it, you should enjoy these special features quite a bit. There is a nice blend of movie features and a documentary piece that is meant to tell more about the real story. Whether you believe it or not is up to you, but the information is offered for anyone that wants to listen.
The features begin with a set of commentaries to get things rolling. The first is more technical with the director (Peter Cornwell), the producer (Andy Trapani), the writer (Adam Simon), and the editor (Tom Elkins). You won’t hear anything out of the ordinary in this commentary. It’s the basic information about a variety of topics from casting to the basic idea of the movie. The second commentary is more fun and free flowing with Cornwell, Virginia Madsen, and Kyle Gallner. This track is more like a conversation with some laughs, a few serious moments, and various bits of information and personal stories. The actors make sure to do their best to blend personal stories with movie facts. I found the second track to be the one worth listening to, though both offer their own specific benefits.
“Two Dead Boys: The Making of The Haunting in Connecticut”: Coming in at around 15 minutes, this is your standard featurette. The cast and crew are interviewed to talk about the film and what the cast brings to the table to make it successful. Other topics discussed include the theme of the film and more technical aspects.
“The Fear is Real: Reinvestigating the Haunting”: This documentary lasts for close to an hour and it takes the time to examine the family behind the movie. The Snedeker family, along with their friends and people that know them, are looked at through interview clips. If you refuse to believe anything that the Snedeker’s say you might find this amusing. However, if you want to find out about the family, this is a good way to do that in a general sense.
“Anatomy of a Haunting”: This 12 minute featurette is pretty straight forward as it gives you a glimpse into the world that rests between the living world and the dead one.
“Memento Mori: The History of Post-Mortem Photography”: The final featurette tops out at about 11 minutes. This deals with the practice of photographing the dead in order to remember them.
Also included are some deleted scenes with optional commentary, and trailers for Haunting, My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Cabin Fever, and The Eye. A second disc is available that includes the digital copy of the film, as well.
Bonus Features: [rating:4]
It’s becoming increasingly hard for me to find a movie that is labeled in the horror genre that truly scares the wits out of me. Haunting is not one of those movies. I didn’t expect anything with a PG-13 rating would. Still, the acting makes this more than watchable. I recommend the Blu-ray over the DVD merely because I am sure that it has a better quality to offer. If you’re picky about your ghost stories you might want to rent this one first. However, if you’re willing to take it for what it’s worth you should find it entertaining. This would be a good haunting flick for a girl’s slumber party.
[tags] Blu-ray Review, The Haunting in Connecticut, Based on a True Story, Virginia Madsen, Ghosts, Funeral Home, Cancer, Lionsgate, Thriller, Horror Movie[/tags]