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a haunting in connecticut

A Haunting in Connecticut
Peter Cornwell
Cast: Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Elias Koteas, Amanda Crew, Martin Donovan, Sophi Knight, Ty Wood, Erik J. Berg

Joanne Ross

March 31, 2009


Billed as “based on true events”, The Haunting in Connecticut directed by Peter Cornwell is the story of a family who encounters supernatural phenomena in a rented house located in northern Connecticut.  Prepare to be shocked out of your seat momentarily as the family hears unexplained noises and sees ghostly apparitions courtesy of the fine camera work and sound and visual effects. Shocked, but not scared. There is nothing scary about The Haunting in Connecticut, except perhaps the family’s reasoning behind remaining in the house. It’s scary to think anyone could be that stupid. I found myself yawning while waiting impatiently for the film to end.

Life is rocky for the Campbells (in real life, the Snedeker family). Their eldest son Matt (Kyle Gallner) is suffering from terminal cancer and his parents Sara and Peter (Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan, respectively) take out two mortgages to pay for his treatment. To complicate matters, tensions still exist between recovering alcoholic Peter and the rest of his family. The treatments Matt undergoes are so punishing and the drives home so long, that Sara decides that for Matt’s sake the family should relocate to a house closer to the hospital. She finds what she considers to be the perfect, affordable house. However, unbeknownst to everyone but her, the house has a history – it was once a funeral home.
It’s no surprise that the family starts experiencing frightening paranormal occurrences.  Matt and his cousin Wendy (Amanda Crew) uncover news stories about the past sinister goings on of the previous owner, the twisted, eyelid-colleting mortician Ramsey Aickman who along with his poor abused medium Jonah dabbled in stealing corpses and conducting séances.  Matt and Wendy quickly realize the family – most especially Matt – are in danger from forces beyond the grave. He turns for help to another cancer patient he meets at the clinic, Reverend Popescu (Elias Koteas).

Though The Haunting in Connecticut is a big letdown, there are some positive aspects of the film worth mentioning. Director Cornwall succeeds in achieving a tone that is atmospheric and unnerving. Combine that with the establishing shots of the house and the set design interiors featuring hardwood floors, creaky staircases, long dark hallways, a cob-webby attic and a dank basement with a secret room and you have the very definition of a creepy, haunted house.

Unfortunately, the cast doesn’t fare too well here, with the exceptions of Gallner and Koteas.  Mostly the actors just seem to be going through the motions, but through no fault of their own. The blame lies with the script and the director’s choices. For a movie about an allegedly real life event, there is little sense of significance or import, and the little that does exist is thanks mainly to Koteas who infuses his performance with believability, compassion and depth.  The words “much ado about nothing” would be appropriate as an alternate title.

For Madsen and Donovan, their performances won’t add any prestige to their careers. Madsen for the most part appeared bored and vacant through most of the film, but thankfully she snapped out of her inertia near the end to deliver a stronger and more specific performance in the final scenes. Donovan, on the other hand, had the throw-away part with little for him to do and little screen time for him to do it in.
So many horror films have a tendency to treat scenes like self-contained units that later are strung together rather than as part of a whole film with continuity. Many scenes are like that in this film – they don’t seem connected to the reality of the scene that precedes it or to the one that follows it.  The apple scene comes to mind as an example.

Like the corpses Matt later finds piled up behind the walls of the house, The Haunting in Connecticut features one cliché stuck on top of another.  In real life, the Snedeker’s survived their ghostly ordeal. After the screening I attended, I’m surprised I didn’t perish from boredom and disappointment.*JR


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