The Night Out: The Haunting In Connecticut (2009), or There’s Always Something Wrong With The Spacious New England Houses

18 04 2009

I am terrified of ghosts. I admit it. We’re not all perfect, even I, the most handsome and intelligent man on earth besides Djimon Honsou; so here I am, admitting a big illogical fear of mine. I think I’ve just had an overwhelming phobia of being all alone that combined with my hatred of things jumping out at me (BOO! scares) to create this surreal, unrealistic phobia. As an atheist and a skeptic, this creates somewhat of a conflict of interests for me, seeing as I don’t subscribe to an afterlife. But the thing is, I really don’t believe in ghosts; I’ve just seen too many horror movies, and I know that if you’re alone in a house and you’re sleeping, NEVER EVER open your eyes, because that’s when something freaky will be right up next to your face, staring at you intently. This phenomenon occurs regularly in The Haunting In Connecticut, your typical Hollywood BOO! fest. It is “based on a true story”, has several Christian overtones, and jumps out at you so much it might as well be riding a pogo stick. Oh, joy…

So this movie is allegedly based on the true story of the Snedeker family after they bought a creepy house in the 80s. Sara and Peter Campbell need to keep their son, who is dying of cancer, closer to the hospital in Southington, Connecticut so they can proceed with more treatments. Sara rents a house nearby for dirt cheap, hearing that it used to be a mortuary but bearing the creepiness of that idea to keep her son alive. The whole family moves in, and that’s when strange things start to happen. Matt begins to see horrific apparitions and hearing noises, which his family associates with the medication he is on. But these are no mere drug hallucinations. They are signs from a ghostly presence, and they bid him to witness the macabre, disturbing things that happened in this house. Because this house was not only used as a mortuary, but a gathering place for seances, where people would attempt to disturb the peace of the recently dead by performing rituals with powerful mediums. Can Matt figure out just what happened here and cleanse the house of spirits before they grow powerful enough to torment his family?

This film was very banal. It’s formulaic and trite, the scares are conventional and loud, and I did not like it. I could probably end the review right there, but let me explain myself. I think that this movie had some potential for success. There were some good touches with the family here and there, especially the subplot involving the dad being an alcoholic. I could see this being a real family moving to a creepy house because they needed a cheap place to stay for their dying son. Kudos to them for that.

But, beyond that, they do absolutely nothing here, and I mean absolutely nothing, that has not been done a thousand times already. Read my reviews for The Amityville Horror or The Unborn if you want to know what I’m talking about. It offers a fleeting, passing scare that doesn’t impress me. If one of you guys came up to my apartment door and knocked, crouched below the peephole so I couldn’t see you, waited until I opened the door, then popped out at me and yelled, “PICKLES!!!!”, that would be scarier than all of this nonsense. The fact that I’ve watched three movies that are exactly alike in almost every way in only four months really hits home to me that the genre needs either a booster shot or some euthanasia.

Virginia Madsen plays Sara as the typical virtuous mom who only wants what is best for her family. Whatever happened to the Ellen Burstyn kind of mom from The Exorcist? She was busy, she had things to do. She cared about her daughter, but she was a feisty little gal who made movies for a living. I liked her, but I don’t like Sara. She needed more personality, more fire, more anything. Kyle Gallner as Matt put forth a good amount of effort to play someone with cancer eating away at him. He is sympathetic even when his illness pushes him to the brink. He can play it a little scary too, sometimes, which often frightens his two siblings in the film. Oh, did I mention that the Campbells had two other children? I didn’t? Well, they don’t add anything to the film at all, so they just kind of slipped out of my head. Oops!

The scary moments aren’t that scary (just very loud), the actors for the most part are just there for a paycheck, and this is just another one in a long series of horror films that makes one wonder when the hell the next wave of horror is going to get here. I hope more independent features learn from this film and others like it, the lesson being that you don’t have to blast the surround sound to scare people, you just need ingenuity. The Haunting In Connecticut lacks all ingenuity, and ends up being a slightly better than bad ghost story that most kids around this campfire have heard already. I don’t think it’s awful, but it is disappointing in that it could have been better. I give it 4 inconsequential children out of 10. Oh, and don’t forget… Boo.

Tomorrow we take a trip down the rabbit hole for the 1988 surreal Scandinavian film Alice!

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