Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BOO!: The Haunting In Connecticut (2009) Review

The opening credits of The Haunting In Connecticut state that this film is "based on the true story". Not just any true story, the true story. If we are to believe the film-makers this, apparently, is the Highlander of ghost stories.

It's a big call which begs the question; can any film – scratch that – can the film live up to the expectations created by such a bold opening declaration. Can blind, deaf, limbless pigs fly? The answer, of course, is no, not really. What the opening credits should have said was that this film is "loosely based on a story that some bullshit artist claims to be true." Had that been the intro, then maybe The Haunting In Connecticut might not have been such a disappointment. Although to be honest, I actually doubt that.

In the late 1980's the Campbell family's eldest son Matt (Kyle Gallner) is receiving experimental treatment for his cancer at a Connecticut hospital. The long commute to the hospital is taking its toll on Matt and his mum Sara (Virginia Madsen) so the family relocates to a big cheap rental near the hospital. Why is the rent cheap? Like all movies that start this way, and as the real estate agent actually spells out, this place "has a history".

Before long Matt starts seeing... BOO! ...ghostly apparitions, but he's indirectly encouraged to keep them to himself because... BOO! ...if his doctors find out that he's seeing things... BOO! ...they are likely to interpret his visions as a sign of brain damage and... BOO! ...cease his treatment.

The story goes from unbelievable to preposterous as... BOO! ...the history of the house is revealed and the other family members, including three other kids, are... BOO! ...drawn into Matt's nightmares.

"Just look at this mess on the wall! We're totally gonna loose our bond."

A better title for this film might have been Jump Scares in Connecticut. To make up for the lack of suspense in the story director Peter Cornwell, inserts more jump scares into his movie than my local Chinese takeaway puts peas in their special fried rice (just to be clear, they put too many). Cornwell's like a kid who gets a positive reaction to a practical joke and then decides that if one practical joke went over well then a barrage of practical jokes is sure to be a huge hit. It just becomes tiring after a while. You become less concerned with the characters and plot, and more worried about when the next random crap is going to suddenly appear in frame accompanied by a loud BAHZING in the soundtrack.

Other problems with the film include the nagging questions of why Matt persists with sleeping in the basement given that it appears to be the epicentre of the haunting, and why they all don't just leave the house when things get really nasty, given that they are only renting.

There's also an underdeveloped sub-plot involving Matt's Dad (Martin Donavon (the "go to" actor for a normal looking guy with a dark side)) who's a recovering alcoholic struggling with a new business venture. At first his predicament seems like a contrivance of plot in order to make Sara and the kids more vulnerable as they are forced to stay in the house alone without Dad. But later in the film Dad falls off the wagon, and very briefly becomes more of a threat to the family than the house's ghosts. It's, sort of, just there and feels half-baked.

All that said THIC (unfortunate acronym, no?), is not a total disaster. It's well made, well performed and is actually pretty effective in the early stages, before the silliness and... BOO! ...excessive jumps scares take over. It's watchable, despite it's many flaws.

And that, my friends, concludes the review of the movie about the true story.

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