Synopsis: Based on a chilling true story, The Haunting In Connecticut charts one family’s terrifying, real-life encounter with the dark forces of the supernatural. When the Campbell family moves to upstate Connecticut, they soon learn that their charming Victorian home has a disturbing history.
eyelights: the strength of its cast. its style. its subtly different take on otherwise familiar material.
eyesores: the CGI ectoplasm. the cheap scares. the unexceptional ending.
“One bright day in the middle of the night, two dead boys got up to fight. Back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other. A deaf policeman heard the noise and came and killed those two dead boys.”
‘The Haunting in Connecticut’ is a 2009 motion picture loosely based on the controversial book ‘In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting’, by Ray Garton. It was originally published as the account of a paranormal investigation that Ed and Lorraine Warren were involved.
The Warrens were the same investigators behind ‘The Amityville Horror‘ and ‘The Conjuring‘, both highly questionable fact-based fiction. In fact, although ‘Amityville’ has seen continued controversy since the late ’70s, ‘The Haunting in Connecticut’ has an even more dubious history.
The original book recounts the experiences of the Snedeker family between 1986 and 1988. The Warrens claimed that the Snedekers moved into a house that was a former a funeral home. It is said that the mortician performed all sorts of necromancy, leaving disturbed spirits behind.
The problem with this story is that it’s been criticized by others as inaccurate, with some claiming that the book was mostly a fabrication. Not only that, but Garton himself has stepped away from the work since its publication, leaving a lot of questions about it unanswered.
Still, the story has been covered in various investigative TV shows and the motion picture also makes the claim that it’s “based on a true story”, even if it actually changes a lot of what had purportedly taken place (a prime example being the fate of the house, which is easily proven false).
‘The Haunting in Connecticut’ revolves around the Campbell family, whose eldest, Matt, is stricken with cancer. His parents are struggling to make ends meet and to drive him back and forth between their home and the hospital, an hours-long journey each time he needs treatment.
Despite the financial strain, they decide to rent another house, closer to the hospital, leaving the father behind to run his business while the mom and the kids move to their new home. But not long after their arrival, Matt begins to have horrifying hallucinations about the former occupants of the house.
At first he dismisses those hallucinations as products of the experimental drugs he’s taking, and won’t admit to the doctor that they are taking place for fear that they will pull him out of their trials – which is the only way that they can afford to have him treated, what with their sole income.
But these hallucinations are something more: there is something deeply wrong with the house!
Despite the rampant criticism of the film and its source material, I rather enjoyed ‘The Haunting in Connecticut’. Sure, it relies on cheap scares to try to spook us out. Sure, there’s really nothing new in this story (but… try to find a haunted house story that’s fresh!). I liked it anyway.
I thought that it was well put together for what it is, that the cast was actually quite good, even credible, and that the family dynamics were well-presented – I especially enjoyed how wholesome it was (despite the father being a recovering alcoholic); they weren’t cynical, jaded or dysfunctional.
In this day and age, to me, that was refreshing.
One thing I really liked was that it revolved around the boy’s illness: it not only humanized the characters, but it also served to confuse the characters and the audience with respect to what was real and what wasn’t. I thought that it was a good device for adding scares and creating tension.
It needs to be noted that this picture revolves around the Christian faith: the family members say grace at the table, pray before bedtime, and talk to God whenever they are struggling with something – faith is a constant part of their lives. In fact, the mom’s faith is shaken because she’s losing her son.
I can see how this aspect might have fueled some of the picture’s negative reviews: there’s nothing more enjoyable that taking shots at devout Christian these days – likely a reaction to how vocal the extreme right is. In any case, even though I’m agnostic, this didn’t bother me one bit.
Interestingly enough, even though this is a faith-based film, it’s a relatively gruesome motion picture – it’s not the kind of thing one might expect in a story focusing on a wholesome Christian family and which provides them with a Reverend as their one last hope.
But it balances the light and the darkness in such a way that it shouldn’t be offensive to Christians, and I feel that it also doesn’t present Christianity in such a way that it should offend non-Christians (or make them roll their eyes). I feel that it’s perfectly-balanced in its use of faith.
And, on a technical level, it’s a well-made picture. It looks good, it’s modern in style, the characters look like they’re in the late ’80s and there’s a terrific soundscape in which the house cracks, creeks and rumbles – it’s a phenomenal experience on blu-ray, with the 7.1 surround sound.
Again, the key issue is in the way that it tries to scare its audience, using imagery in combination with loud music, instead of building up the tension psychologically. And it does suffer from some rather poor CGI (to show ectoplasm escaping a medium’s body). But that’s a minor part of the picture.
The ending felt contrived, if not outright unbelievable, and it presented a few clichés that I could have done without – hence the lower rating. But, until then, I thought that ‘The Haunting in Connecticut’ was a pretty strong effort – even if it failed to truly scare me.
But I’m hard to scare. Others, I’m sure, would get the heebie jeebies watching this.
Nota bene: there are two version of this picture, both of which are on the blu-ray release: the theatrical version and the unrated version. While I have yet to watch the unrated version, it looks like the differences are mostly minute, pertaining to colouring of certain scenes. Based on this detailed analysis, I would suggest sticking with the original theatrical version.
Date of viewing: October 27, 2014