Monday, April 11

The Haunting in Connecticut? Eeh, it's worth the six bucks...

Peter Cornwell's The Haunting in Connecticut is hard to avoid. After doing solid box office, Lionsgate seems to be throwing this spooker into multi-feature packs left-and-right along with granting substantial price drops to its standalone releases. This threw me off, and with believing this "dumping" was a sign of the flick's quality, I didn't place much priority in seeing it until last night. I'm unsure as to why I often do that; however, as usual it was best to judge for myself...

Centered on a teenage cancer patient, Matt (Kyle Gallner), and family moving into an old home and subsequently falling prey to paranormal rumblings; Haunting is best described as a reflection of the ongoing state of mainstream frights. The first hour is a well measured, suspenseful slow burn. An experimental medical treatment, which might cause hallucinations, is being used on the ill teen and writers Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe take obvious pains to make the viewer second guess whether Matt is merely delusional or a more sinister presence is taking hold of his weakened state. With the boy's room choice being a gloomy basement; there's all sorts of chances for ghastly shadows, creepy sounds, and a wall of doors off to one side that seem concreted shut. In a waking nightmare Matt gains access to what's beyond the facade and discovers a long forgotten embalming room. Naturally, the family was never told of the home's former life as a mortuary and Matt's visions intensify.

Sounds like a good ol' ghostly cracker of psychological horror, right? Here's where you can liken Haunting to the modern approach to this brand of horror in microcosm. After that first hour is up, this taunt build is cast away for a mountain of slambam cliché to wake up those bored with its arguably superior initial path. This tonal shift is palpable as the creaky house's past of necromancy, seance, and ectoplasmic vomit is broken wide open. A priest also stricken with cancer (the ever dependable Elias Koteas) comes in with all the answers and soon there's doors slamming uncontrollably, room rampaging phantom birds, and lights flickering from bulb-less sockets. The evil has fully awakened! And now only Matt can free both himself and a not-so-bad entity that has attached itself to the teen in order to rid the house of its demons. Hellfire! Mummified remains! Tribal tattooing that suddenly disappears! Burn victims! The Shining! The Changeling! Stir of Echoes! Unrealistic Happy Ending (after several false endings)!

The last half is overkill that beguiles any assurance to the opening claim of Cornwell's first stab at horror filmmaking being based on a true story. Although you're likely to forget that by the conclusion, just like how Haunting either contradicts or conveniently forgets a number of potentially interesting subplots and ideas seen in its first half. Despite this half-and-half nature, I'm not going to hold anything aganist this one. It's a bit of everything done well enough to warrant a look. Maybe a good starting point to ease newcomers toward more consistent examples of psychological horror. Haunting's unrated Blu-ray is worth the measly six dollar tag currently at Wal Mart as part of a Lionsgate format promotion. Just don't expect to be totally satisfied regardless of whether you're a casual or veteran horror fan.  


Dr Blood said...

I preferred the TV version that Echo Bridge put out.

Buscemi said...

I got Cutthroat Island from this section. It has some extras not on the DVD (such as a commentary and making-of) and I had been wanting to upgrade my DVD copy.

I almost got The Haunting in Connecticut but didn't. I wished Johnny Handsome was in it too (that has three new featurettes not on the DVD).

Jayson Kennedy said...

I'm going to have to check that one out Dr. Blood, this appears to be based from a Discovery Channel program...which I also haven't seen.

I need to pick up Cutthroat Island, Buscemi. Very underrated fun. I only have it on DVD from Korea that's been cropped to 1.78. :( you dare tread upon the staircase?

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