MOVIE: The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

About two years ago, I saw a documentary on the Discovery Channel called A Haunting in Connecticut (2002).  It was about a teenage boy with cancer whose family thought they had gotten lucky when a rental house just five minutes from the hospital became available cheap.  After months of many-hour drives to and from the cancer ward, they signed the lease no-questions-asked and moved right in, despite the fact finances were tight and it meant splitting the family up (Mom and kids moved into the rental, Dad stayed behind to work and only came out on weekends).   As it turned out, financial problems and cancer were about to become their most minor of concerns.  Cuz that rental house?  Was such a bargain because it A) used to be a funeral home, and therefore B) was haunted.

Despite the cheesiness of that description, I actually rather enjoyed this two-hour documentary.  So, when I heard the same tale was being turned into a scary movie, I was kind of excited to see it.  I love ghost stories, and this one was pretty creepy even when acted out by unrecognizable TV extras.  Polish it up a bit and throw in Martin Donovan and Virginia Madsen as the Campbell family parents, and heck, we might really be in for something kind of good here.

Now, for the record, I watched this movie in the most perfect setting imaginable — well, wait, I guess the MOST perfect setting imaginable would’ve been an actual haunted funeral home (sahweet!).  But certainly it was the NEXT most perfect setting imaginable.   We had just bought a new tent for a camping trip and I decided to pitch it in the backyard two weekends ago and sleep in it.  For kicks.  So, there I was, alone in a tent in the dark, surrounded by the sound of unidentified animals scampering through the crackling branches of the trees and the periodic rustling of leaves.

And, of course, the gentle whirring of the fan in my laptop, which I had in the tent with me running off an extension cord.  Because what is camping without wi-fi, I ask you?  It’s not the Stone Age anymore, hippies.

In any case, I settled in.  It was dark.  It was spooky.  I was all set to be scared.  I hit play and. . . LORD HAVE MERCY!  THE TERROR!!  THE HORROR!!  THE. . . oh wait, that was just the incident with the big bug in my tent.  The movie?  Not scary at all.

I never know who to blame for stuff like this, so I’m going to go ahead and blame the director and the two guys who wrote the screenplay (Peter Cornwell, Adam Simon, and Tim Metcalfe, respectively) because while they may not have been in charge of everything that went wrong with this picture, they were still the three most responsible, at least from where I sit.  So, here’s the thing — Les Trois Stooges took everything that was effectively unsettling about the original Discovery Channel documentary and replaced it with all the same dumb stuff we’ve seen 86 gazillion times.  And then, just in case we’d only seen them 85 gazillion times, they made sure to punctuate every scary moment with a harpy-inspired shriek from a  violin.  As if to say, “HEY, GUYS, YOU GOT THAT THAT WAS ONE OF THE SCARY PARTS, RIGHT?”

Yeah, dudes, we got it.

By overdoing all the ghost stuff, to the point of gotta-look-away grossness (eyelids: no!), they turned this movie into a ridiculous ew-fest instead of an entertaining eek-fest.  There is nothing scary about grossness — it’s just gross.  And what really bugged me is that they made changes to the original story that could’ve been improvements if they’d committed to them.  In the documentary, Matt (the teenager with cancer) and his little brother share the basement room, and both of them see things during the night.  In the movie, though, Matt lives down there alone.  And because he’s also in the middle of an experimental treatment for his cancer, we start to wonder for a while whether or not the ghosts are truly out there in the real world, or simply flitting around in his brain right next to a big metastasizing tumor.  Then everybody else started seeing them too and the intriguing part of the suspense was lost.  And yes, they were making a “true story,” so they had to make the ghosts real to the whole family, blah blah blah.  But they changed a lot of other stuff, ostensibly to “improve” it, after all, and you know what would be truly scary?  If you were being haunted by ghosts that were only in your own head.  If the terror was just as real, the experiences just as visceral, but it wasn’t really there.  Isn’t that one of everybody’s biggest fears?  Fear of madness that goes that far and has its source in something completely out of your control?

Damn, that would’ve been an interesting picture.

This one, not so much.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Horror
Cast:  Martin Donovan, Virginia Madsen, Elias Koteas, Kyle Gallner, Amanda Crew

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3 Responses to “MOVIE: The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)”

  1. Trip Says:

    Sometimes, dead is better.

  2. alisaj29 Says:

    I haven’t even read the review yet, and I had to comment.

    I saw the documentary SEVERAL years ago, and I begged my husband not to spend $ on the movie, but he did, and it SPECTACULARLY SUCKED. And this coming from me who likes Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State.

    Ok, I’m going to read the review now. 🙂

  3. Liz Says:

    And sometimes … they come back!

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