Movie News & Reviews

'Haunting in Connecticut' lacks sense, and terror

I appear to be stuck in a time warp.

Here it is 24 hours later, I'm still sick, and I'm seeing anothergeneric movie that's more or less indistinguishable from every othermovie just like it. Unless that's the fever talking and right noweverything looks like a boring clone of something I've already seen,in which case I'd like some lead-jacketed medicine, please.

Until that arrives, I'm sticking with the time-warp theory. Doomed,like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, to repeat this miserable dayuntil I find true love — because, as we all know, when love begins, allyour problems go away forever. Pardon my rambling: my brain is filledwith viruses. On to The Haunting in Connecticut.

Virginia Madsen's son Kyle Gallner has cancer, but the real problemhere is the all-night commute for his experimental treatments. Unableto take the strain on herself and Gallner, she temporarily relocatesthe family to a house in Connecticut.

The house has a history. Gallner starts seeing things — people, visionsof the past, morbid rituals — but is afraid it's the side effects ofhis treatment, and if he tells, he'll have to stop. Meanwhile, his dadfigures out the old home was once a mortuary.

Gallner's behavior looks like madness until the spirits of the housestart coming for his younger siblings. With the help of reverend andfellow cancer-patient Elias Koteas, he'll try to cleanse the house ofthe forces that possess it.

The Haunting in Connecticut is based on a true story in thesense that someone, probably a crazy person, says it's true. Fine.I've said it before and I'll say it again: real life is stupid. It'sconfusing and it rarely adds up to anything. You're better off justmaking it up completely, because at least then you can put more nakedpeople in it.

Here, the facts are both arbitrary and commonplace. Not that anyonewho's ever seen The Exorcist needs help understandingparanormal technobabble such as "possessed" and "necromancy," but just incase you were born yesterday, Koteas exposits it so thoroughlyhe should be credited as "Greek Chorus."

Until he comes along to set the record straight, however, directorPeter Cornwell burns several lifetimes goofing around with jump-outscares and violin stings. Consider me shat.

The Haunting also commits the No. 1 failure of horrormovies: taking too long to explain the particulars of its supernaturalproceedings. We're restless creatures who need ongoing logic to keepour attention. A series of disturbing images doesn't accumulate intoanything meaningful; the 10th spooky silhouette doesn't make any moresense than the first.

Subset crime: inconsistency in its supernatural rules. OK, so seeingvisions of the home's former owners, that I can buy. Grubs in thefloorboards? Well, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but whynot. Wait, now Gallner is being attacked by crabs? Sweet imagine, Mr.Cornwell, but I think that would have been more appropriate in theprequel, The Haunting in Chesapeake Bay.

Well, you can't expect too much attention to detail from a movie wherea cancer-kid who pukes up everything he puts down is still built likea movie star. On the other hand, Gallner's bare pecs are critical onceit comes time for some shirtless ghostbusting.

Honestly, thanks to an eye for the iconic, Cornwell pulls the finaleinto something fleetingly compelling. But in a story I gave up on longbefore that, without any real terror or the atmosphere that's soimportant to these films, The Haunting in Connecticut readslike the true story of a family that's seen too many bad movies.

Grade: C-