It seemed every station I watched in March, there was an advertisement for The Haunting in Connecticut. The trailer certainly had a lot going for it – a creepy narration, creepy visuals, creepy house…creepy everything, basically. It wasn’t hard to sell this movie and the tagline of “Based on True Events” just made it all that much more intriguing. Of course, Halloween could be based on true events if you stretch it far enough, so unfortunately in the case of this movie not everything was completely factual…although the “real” story is still genuinely quite horrific. If you believe it, anyway.
Based on a chilling true story, Lionsgate’s THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT charts one family’s terrifying, real-life encounter with the dark forces of the supernatural. When the Campbell family moves to upstate Connecticut, they soon learn that their charming Victorian home has a disturbing history: not only was the house a transformed funeral parlor where inconceivable acts occurred, but the owner’s clairvoyant son Jonah served as a demonic messenger, providing a gateway for spiritual entities to crossover. Now, unspeakable terror awaits when Jonah, the boy who communicated with the dead, returns to unleash a new kind of horror on the innocent and unsuspecting family.
The key advertising idea behind this film was the “True Events” line and then cutting to a shot of a boy vomiting green stuff in slow motion into the air above him. It’s an interesting shot and dominates as one of the creepier visuals the film has to offer (although there are plenty more of those too…and not all of them are cheap “jump” shots, although the film is loaded with them to the point of near overkill). But those expecting the film to be a bunch of ectoplasm upchucking will be sorely disappointed—the entire film revolves around that one event and we see very little more than we do in the trailers.
But, what about the true events? Well to start, the script for the film amped up the creep factor by injecting the subplot about the Jonah character into it. There was also the addition of bodies being written on…and they also seem to have left out a couple siblings that were living in the house as well (from what I gleaned from the extras, anyway). But what story adapted to film doesn’t leave some facts out for the “good” of the story? I’m not really faulting the movie for doing this as nearly every film in existence has, but claiming your paranormal film is based on “true events” is a bit bold, especially with so little “proof” of the actual existence of genuine paranormal activity. Not that I’m doubting it, of course, but I’m just saying it’s not generally something that you see slapped alongside of a horror picture.
The film does a solid setup with the son being the only one to see the ghastly figures in the home first, but it soon twists it around to have the majority of the house inhabitants witness them…which is slightly backwards, considering the reason for their apparitions were supposedly because the son was so close to death due to his cancer…but, whatever. Horror movie, right? There were plenty of decent scares although, again, the jump tactics it employed grew a bit old at times. Still, some of the visuals were genuinely disturbing, such as the clipping of eyelids, the bodies pouring out of the walls and…well, just about everything else. Ghosts really need to learn how to talk though, as the constant haunting and all of that with the creepy visuals could go over a lot smoother if they’d just verbally communicate what they want. Hmm…now I have an urge to watch Casper…
Despite its PG-13 rating, the film is still pretty scary. While there’s no foul language of any kind that I can remember, there is plenty of gore and ghastly images to frighten younger viewers. It’s got enough scares in it to make you question going into a darkened room after viewing it (I had to go to the bathroom after watching it and I ended up making a mad dash to the bathroom due the hallway leading to it being rather dark. It’s a fear that quickly leaves you, of course, but it does manage to build up a fair amount of uneasiness through the hour and forty minutes it runs. Of course some of that fear may be stemming from the unrated version—there’s ten minutes difference between the two cuts and while I couldn’t tell you exactly what was new and what was old between the two versions, the unrated cut did sport a few more freaky images.
Overall The Haunting in Connecticut is a solid film that definitely has its but is still worth checking out if you enjoy the genre. If you don’t you’ll no doubt find it a giant waste of time, but as someone who is slowly warming up to and finding the appeal of horror films, I found quite a few fun things to be had in this film. Finding out that it wasn’t all entirely factual, however, did put a few dings in it…but as far as horror flicks go, you could definitely do worse. Recommended.
Lionsgate has unleashed The Haunting in Connecticut in a two-disc Elite Blu-ray case (second disc is the digital copy). This may be the first film that stars an Oscar winner that isn’t touted—except in tiny print on the back of the case, you don’t even see any of the stars of the film mentioned at all. The cover itself is of the ectoplasm vomit scene, since that seems to be the only thing they can promote with this film.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded effort and, as is usually the case with Lionsgate releases, it looks pretty damn good. Earlier scenes in the film offer the greatest glimpse into what the transfer has to offer in terms of the clarity as once they move into the house, the color palette dims greatly, rarely offering up anything that boasts a strong array of colors. Still, the film looks good for what it is, with plenty of grain infused in with the “flashback” scenes. The audio, a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix honestly didn’t surprise me very much. It did flitter around the surrounds quite a bit with the creepy noises, but rarely is it anything that really made you jump as a result of audio placement. Still, between the video and the audio you get a more than adequate audio mix…even if it’s nothing to really boast about.
Unrated Audio Commentary with Director Peter Cornwell, Producer Andy Rapini, Writer Adam Simon and Editor Tom Elkins
Unrated Audio Commentary with Director Peter Cornwell, Virginia Madsen and Kyle Gallner
Two Dead Boys: The Making of (14:36, 1080p)
The Fear is Real: Reinvestigating the Haunting (41:46, 1080p)
Anatomy of a Haunting (12:17, 1080p)
Memento Mori: The History of Postmortem Photography (10:51, 1080p)
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Peter Cornwell (8:32, 480p)
Theatrical Trailer (2:28, 1080p)
Yeah, there’s plenty to check out here. After you check out the two commentaries, which both offer up plenty of interesting comments about the film, you’ll probably want to head straight to the “Fear is Real” two-part documentary. It interviews some of the people the film itself was based on and their experiences in the house. It’s definitely an interesting way to follow up a viewing of the film and while it’s hard to judge just how honest they’re all being about the thing, it’s just a great little spooky mystery to wrap yourself up in for a few hours, if you so desire. The “true events” is about the only hook this film has that separates itself from a whole genre filled with the same stories, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re into the horror genre.
Overall a solid release and one that’s filled with a surprising amount of extras, almost all of which are worth checking out if you enjoyed the film the least little bit. Recommended.
The Haunting in Connecticut is now available on rated and unrated DVD and Blu-ray (which contains both versions of the film).