Peter Cornwell’s The Haunting in Conneticut is the latest in a long line of “based on a true story” haunted-house films in the style of The Amityville Horror (1979). What this generally means is that any old yahoo who thinks the ghost of grandma is running around flushing toilets and flipping the porch light on and off can get a movie deal.
In actuality, The Haunting in Connecticut goes a step further, since it claims to be based on the true story. Couple that with the fact that this is the haunting in Connecticut, and it would appear that this is the definitive tale of spookiness in the Nutmeg State. Be sure to thank Mr. Cornwell the next time you see him.
Regardless, the movie remains a series of haunted-house clichés and tropes. In this case we get a family, whose oldest son, Matt (TV actor Kyle Gallner), is suffering from some unnamed form of movie cancer. In order to shorten the drive time between their home and the hospital, where Matt is receiving his radiation treatment, his mother, Sara (Virginia Madsen), decides to move the family to Connecticut.
She quickly finds the perfect rental home, but it seems to have some sort of “history.” In this case, the house used to be a mortuary, and Matt—possibly due to the experimental manner of his cancer treatment—begins to see spooky goings on. This mostly consists of murky figures popping up in mirrors or in the reflections of television monitors (accompanied, of course, by screechy violin cues), but quickly graduates into broken dishes, bloody mops, charmingly animated crabs and a column on their porch filled with what appears to be maggot-infested beef stew.
Of course, things begin to escalate, and the rest of the family starts seeing things, too. Some quick research (done in a library looking at headlines on microfiche copies of newspapers) shows that the house was not only a mortuary, but séances were practiced in the parlor as well, in addition to some dabbling in necromancy.
All of this is supposed to lead to an unraveling of the mysteries of the house and the evil that lies within, but none of it is terribly scary or creepy, two key elements if you’re making a horror movie. The easy thing would be to blame the film’s PG-13 rating, but Gore Verbinski made the wholly unsettling The Ring (2002) with the same rating. But Cornwell seems to have little idea of what makes a horror flick frightening—and it certainly doesn’t help that the whole thing looks like it has the budget of a Lifetime movie. The scares are all of the “something popping up from around the corner” variety, and there is zero creepiness—let alone tact—involved with any of it. It’s a movie where the climactic “true evil” of the house ends up being a fridge full of moldy food and a killer shower curtain. Evil has never been so banal.
In the end, The Haunting in Connecticut is just another case of been there done that, adding nothing new to an already stale horror genre. Beyond a handful of unintentional laughs, it’s not good for much. Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of terror and disturbing images.