No, I guess I didn’t put too much effort into that headline. But why should I? It’s not like anyone involved with the making of The Haunting in Connecticut put forth any effort to make a quality movie. Even the sad loser who came up with the title was just phoning it in. The Haunting in Connecticut? Really? That’s the best you’ve got? Shame.
I guess the title makes sense, though. The film is just one of the constant slew of ghost stories and haunted house movies that market themselves as “based on a true story” and giving it such a bland, crime-scene kind of title makes it sound like documentary fact. I hate a whole lot of all types of movies that are “based on true stories” because they’re usually made in a style (or lack thereof) where the director assumes that if the story is “true,” then it’ll pretty much sell itself on that basis. (I’m looking at you, every-inspirational-sports-movie-ever-made.) And then the dopey defenders of these movies say “well, it’s a true story” to try and justify its worth as a movie. And that’s the dumbest damn argument I’ve ever heard. The best movies based on true stories are ones that don’t have to advertise themselves as such to put asses in seats.
But anyway, onto this one. I have no idea what the “true story” is that inspired this film, but I do know two things: 1) they played it up to the nth degree when translating it to film, and 2) despite that fact, the real story is far more interesting than anything that’s happening in this movie. But still, The Haunting in Connecticut really, really wants you to know that it’s based on a true story. The “true story” tag at the beginning stayed up for what felt like a full ten seconds (I’m sure it lasted longer than the title of the movie). And then we go straight into footage showing Virginia Madsen being interviewed for a documentary of some kind, with her face concealed in shadows. She says a few ominous and creepy things that are neither ominous nor creepy and from there we begin a horror movie that’s been designed for people who find cliche riveting. In other words, people who aren’t really watching the movie at all.
Maybe it’s just me. I do, after all, hate haunted house movies. They’re all exactly the same and equally boring. This one is no different. The story involves the Campbell family who moves away from their country home so that the eldest son, Matt (Kyle Gallner), who has cancer, can be closer to the hospital. They move into a very spacious old house that everyone seems to take an immediate shine to.
After not too long, however, Matt begins to see horrible visions of ghosts and other macabre images including… *gasp!*… crabs. He is pretty much immediately willing to brush those off as hallucinations brought on by his medication, which is something that I liked and found intriguing. It ought to save us from having a lot of “I swear, there was a ghost right there two minutes ago!!!” scenes, although through one way or another, this movie finds a way to do some dangerously similar stuff. But that one single “I’m just hallucinating” concept (which is barely utilized) is as far as the good stuff goes with this one. It’s soon discovered that the house used to be a funeral home and then things start go mildly and underwhelmingly nutty.
Some of the funeral home’s old photographs are soon found in the attic (at which point we are treated to the brilliant line “Oh my god…they’re all dead“) and Matt is convinced that he’s seen a boy from one of the photos in his hallucinations, starting to suspect that they might be real… And cue the obligatory microfiche research montage, which is one of the most obnoxious microfiche scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Our concerned characters soon become complete overnight geniuses on the lineage of their house and the people that used to own it and perform strange cult rituals with corpses. Matt soon enlists the help of a reverend and fellow cancer patient played by good ol’ Elias Koteas.
Anyway, I’ve probably said too much. All of this takes place in an amount of time that spans more than the first half of the film. And that brings us to my main problem with this movie: it’s boring. Everything in this movie is dull and lifeless and nothing starts to actually happen until late in the game and it’s no surprise that once things do start happening, that none of it is particularly interesting. We also feel absolutely no connection to our dying hero, his dumb mother (Madsen, who’s better than this) or his (of course!) drunk of a father (Martin Donovan). All of the scares in the movie are obnoxious jump scares complete with loud noises and quick cutaways set to screaching girly screams and you can see everyone of them coming from a mile away. This movie is a complete funhouse of horror cliches and that sucks. I could seriously go on and on and on forever about the stuff in this movie that doesn’t work at all in terms of character, direction, and plot, but with a movie like this, it just seems kinda pointless. Mainly remember this: it’s damn boring. I was dying to get out of that theater after the first 20 minutes.
It’s a shame, too, because their came a point where I was imagining my own movie in my head that had a similar premise, and it was really good. The concept of someone who is on the verge of death and being haunted by the undead is great material for a good psychological thriller or a meditation on the inevitability of death–kinda like Synecdoche, New York somehow, but maybe played out more like Bug or even Naked Lunch. Just not like this. That idea was taken and concious decisions were made to make the least interesting version of that movie that could be thought of (and it didn’t even take that much thought, to boot). This movie is just lazy and pathetic at every turn.
On a final note, here’s an interesting anecdote that ultimately makes my criticism of the film worthless. I saw the movie with the usual Friday-night crowd for a PG-13 horror movie, which is essentially all of the obnoxious high schoolers who can’t get into the R-rated movies. And of course they were there–the movie is marketed straight to them (hence the PG-13, usually). Now, I saw something occur in the theater that I’ve never seen before. A few minutes before the movie started (and sporadically during the movie), a very intimidating-looking female manager at the multiplex walked in the theater and strutted around, angrily telling teenagers to put their cell phones away and stop talking.
Part of me enjoyed watching this, as I deplore in-movie rudeness. But it’s interesting that she should know that the problematic people will inevitably show up at this one specific film. What I mean to say is that this is a movie that has been made for and marketed to an audience that doesn’t care about movies–they’re just there because it’s something to do. Why did that manager even bother?
But more to my point, if the audience doesn’t care, why should the filmmakers? They’re just making something occupy space for an audience that needs to be chaperoned. As such, this movie is completely impervious to criticism. It’s not even a movie, really. It’s just something flashing on a screen that occasionally makes a loud noise.
So, let me just put it this way: if you like movies, then you will not like The Haunting in Connecticut. It really is that simple.