I could recommend THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT to any 13 year old boy or girl. I stress that I could make such a recommendation, but I don’t know any 13 year olds and even if I did, I’m not sure I’d want to recommend it to them. There is so much more to enjoy in the world, so much more to get thrills from. I don’t want to complain that THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT sucks because I’ve seen all of this stuff before. Though that is a true statement, it wouldn’t be fair and it is too obvious. Yes, I’ve seen it all, but this PG-13 Hollywood fare is not made for me nor is it marketed to me. Yet because I’m the kind of horror guy who eventually ends up seeing everything, in an ancillary way, it was made for me.
That being the roundabout case, THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT sucks. I’ve seen this all before, you’ve seen it all before. Shrug. I guess it had to be said. This is just another in a string of “Based on a True Story so Long as You Don’t Know how to use Wikipedia” films, which is probably my least respected horror niche right behind torture porn. I’m not sure anything in horror annoys me more than cavalier use of the “Based on a True Story” market bait, so HIC was, to be honest, running a fixed race to begin with. I’m not going to apologize for that though. It’s not my fault I’ve got a brain.
Which is a shame, because I like Kyle Gallner as an actor, who I’ve always found to brighten up a script since he killed his role on “VERONICA MARS”. I’m glad to see he’s grown into his profession and I’m relieved to confess his best work to date may actually be HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT. He’s the saving grace of the film as the not-long-to-live cancer ridden root to the familiar ‘family moves to the wrong house in the countryside’ ghost story. Having the core of the film be a sickly child is a welcome deviation from the healthy as a Maxim photo shoot teens we’re used to seeing in shockers of this ilk, I’ll give screen writers Simon and Metcalfe credit in that department. Same goes for director Peter Cornwell for consistently selling us on a teen with real anguish extending beyond the ‘my parents don’t get me’ Linkin Park angst predominant in lowest common denominator horror these days.
My main problem isn’t with the script, though, it’s with Cornwell’s inability to deliver scares. There is not a single thrill in all of THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT that wasn’t conceived in the editing room. There are times of tension but they’re always punctuated by some contrived post-production jolt delivered by the editor’s insert. Faces are either popping out of nowhere or Gallner’s cancer boy is getting bombarded by grinding montages from the beyond. I’m not sure exposition in the form of puzzle piece montage has ever been scary, so I’m not sure why Cornwell decided it was a must throughout the entire picture.
Yeah, we get it, some shit went down in the house that used to be a funeral home. Boo-freaking-hoo. You don’t need to keep clubbing our senses to death with it. But in case the audience still can’t figure that out, there’s not one but two agents of redundant exposition. The first is Elias Koteas, who provides a double whammy of near death/biblical insight by way of being a Reverend with a terminal case of cancer. Tough gig. And then of course there is the mandatory, lets-go-research-at-the-library montage!, fully equipped with microfilm knob turning. I know THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT is set in the ’80s, but let’s get serious. What teenager has ever actually used microfilm to research anything? And yet it happens again and again in horror, because apparently the only record of a bunch of people dying in a small town is kept on microfilm.
The firey ending is a welcome macabre cherry, but it comes too late to turn the rest of the picture around nor is it shocking enough to define the entire film, as is the case with most studio efforts angling to play on short attention spans with a showstopper of an ending. Sorry Lions Gate/Gold Circle Films, but my attention span just ain’t that short. I remember the meandering bullshit that makes up the first 3/4ths of THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, but worse still I remember that not only is your film barely based on a true story, but the ‘true’ story it is based on has been discredited left and right. I know that tricking the gullible is your sales pitch, but at least make it worth while. I can put a bag over the head of that opening title card malarkey, but I can’t close my eyes to the busted body that is the rest of the film.