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The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

Some things cannot be explained.

Directed by:

Peter Cornwell

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 102 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 15

Country: United States

Probably more than any other genre, horror movies are always getting knocked for their over-reliance on clichés and predictability. Even when they’re supposedly based on true stories, it may seem at times that just about every scary idea has been tapped, then tapped again. That’s basically the case in The Haunting in Connecticut, which breaks no new ground and seems to rely on a conglomeration of bits from The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, Poltergeist, and maybe even The Sixth Sense for its creep-outs. It’s still a good watch, though, because even if they’re not the newest frights on the block, the screams are there—plus, we’ve finally got some characters we can actually care about, a novelty as of late with the scary.

For one, what’s sadder than a kid with cancer? Nothing—which is why we instantly feel for Matt Campbell (Kyle Gallner). To avoid a bad commute, Matt’s family relocates to a sweet deal of a house in Connecticut—soon, though, he starts being haunted by icky nightmares and visions in his basement bedroom. Turns out the great new home has some not-so-great history, what with the séances and the funeral home and the bodies, and Matt discovers that his proximity to death has opened him up to all kinds of badness on top of the very real dangers he’s already battling in his body.

The things that work about this film are its cast, its underlying drama, and its commitment to be scary. Again, we ain’t breaking new ground, but the ground we’re on offers up some genuine jumps and freakies, and it all looks well-done, if not especially noteworthy. What I really liked, though, was that both Gallner, who I loved in the much-missed “Veronica Mars,” and Virginia Madsen, as his strong fighter-type mom, make us root for them to overcome cancer, ghosts, jerk dads—all the demons flitting about in this story, both real and imagined. It’s especially unsettling, in the beginning, to be with Matt as he grapples with the idea that the awful things he’s seeing may all be a result of his experimental cancer treatment, and probably one of the scariest aspects of the whole movie is his utter loneliness as he fights to hide the terrors of his new home for fear he’ll be removed from the trials. Real-life disease is more terrifying than ghosts any day, and in his first major big screen venture, director Peter Cromwell manages just the right balance of character-based drama and “Eek!” moments to lift an otherwise decent but forgettable horror flick to be just a little better than the recent spate of gore-filled remakes and uninspired girl-in-peril-is-oh-so-dull fare of late.

It's Got: Decent story, Scary cancer, Beaver from “Veronica Mars”.

It Needs: A little more story of its own, A few fresher frights.

Alternatives:

Candyman, Poltergeist, The Sixth Sense

Summary

Definitely no new territory here, but The Haunting in Connecticut still manages to elicit a few screams and gives us characters we’re actually hoping will survive.

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