Letter From The Editor - Issue 58 - August 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
March 2009

Another day, another 'Haunting'

Another ghost story gone banal in 'Connecticut'

The Haunting in Connecticut
Lionsgate
Director: Peter Cornwell
Screenplay: Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe
Starring: Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Martin Donovan, Elias Koteas, Amanda Crew, Sophi Knight and Ty Wood
Opened March 27, 2009
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 32 minutes
(out of four)

To all you realtors out there trying to unload the creaky old house with the disreputable history, I've got a better idea. Just torch the place. Make it look like an accident - maybe it was the pilot light, maybe the drapes were hanging too close to a nearby candle, maybe some electrical wires got crossed.

Whatever way you can, burn it to the ground and collect that insurance money. Trust me, you're going to save yourself a big headache. Maybe the Overlook Hotel is too big of a job, but a normal, run-down house in the middle of a quiet suburbia? No sweat.

And even if you're not very good at covering up your tracks, the authorities will get it - terrible things happened at this place. It was in all the papers. It was going to haunt people forever. Someone had to take action. They'll turn the other cheek.

And you, my friend, will save yourself the major headache of dealing with evil spirits tearing apart the souls of the living. No more bloody rampages to deal with - which would have just been hell on your carpeting anyway. No more police inquiries. No more priests loitering in the front yard, doing magic tricks to cast out evil. No more tenants acting insane and seeing things - which, let's be honest, is only going to freak out the neighbors and lower your property value.

Why does no one else think of this? It's your everyday, run-of-the-mill insurance fraud - and you may get to save yourself a major hassle (not to mention tons of paperwork) in the process.

But then again, we'd be robbed of one of our most precious scary tales - the haunted house. What kind of mischief would our children get into without it?

Like pretty much every other movie of its kind, The Haunting in Connecticut claims to be a true-life version of a story we have heard so often.

To the filmmakers' credit, the story is pared down to a fairly intimate setting, with more focus than I expected on its characters. The mother, Sara (Virginia Madsen) is caring for her teenage son, Matt (Kyle Gallner), who is suffering from cancer. The family has had to rent a new house to be closer to a hospital where Matt is undergoing an experimental treatment.

After moving into the new house and beginning treatment, Matt starts to have horrifying hallucinations - for reasons we will later discover - that may or may not be a product of the side effects of his treatment.

The film could have toyed with the idea that Matt's perception or even sanity were at stake, but with a couple of cheap jump-scares early in the film, it quickly abandons that possibility and makes its intentions all too clear.

By the way, the house used to be a mortuary. Good tidings indeed.

What's most curious about The Haunting in Connecticut is how it seems to take a reasonable approach toward its characters (however clunky the writing is) but has no idea what to do with its horror elements. This is a shapeless film with no sense of style or pacing.

Yes, we have the priest (Elias Koteas), who Matt befriends at the hospital. We have the parental conflict as the son's health goes from bad to worse. We have the obligatory expository scenes where Matt and his trusty sister discover the true history of their new home.

There's definitely a formula being followed, but certainly not with any rhythm or sense of atmosphere. The proceedings, for all their supposedly shocking developments, never come across as anything but bland. As haunted houses go, this one's a dud.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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