Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
March 2013

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia

This is not a sequel

The inexplicably titled 'The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia' is more like a trailer than an actual movie

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia
Lionsgate
Director: Tom Elkins
Screenplay: David Coggeshall
Starring: Abigail Spencer, Emily Alyn Lind, Chad Michael Murray, Katee Sackhoff, Grant James and Morgana Shaw
Rated R / 1 hour, 40 minutes
Now playing in limited release and VOD
(out of four)

I don't know much about Tom Elkins - this is, after all, his first effort as a director - but one thing I can say for certain is that restraint is not a part of his vocabulary. The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia is not so much a movie, but a 90-minute sizzle reel where Elkins unloads his bag of tricks, presumably at random.

The movie's central conceit is that the women in the family - the mother, Lisa (Abigail Spencer), her daughter Heidi (Emily Alyn Lind) and Lisa's sister Joyce (Katee Sackhoff) - have the ability to see and interact with the spirits of the dead. And so Elkins gives us scene after scene (after scene after scene after scene after scene*) of those visions and interactions, and does so in the most visually unsubtle way possible.

*after scene after scene after scene after scene...

I understand the need to visually distinguish between the film's physical world and its spirit world, but Elkins takes it to the point of absurdity. He plays around with exposure and aperture. He gives us black-and-white. He uses garish color filters. He changes film stock. And he shifts gears from second to second. It's like the photographic smorgasbord of Natural Born Killers, only without any real point. And more importantly, it doesn't make any sense in context. The scenes are centered around the characters' ability to see these apparitions, yet Elkins doesn't just give us point-of-view shots (which would be fine). Instead, he changes angles rapidly and without reason. His wide shots from non-subjective angles are completely out of step with the film's internal logic. It just seems like he's playing around with whatever cool things he can do with the camera, in the process disregarding the actual movie he's supposed to be making.

Most of the time, I'll take visual inventiveness over just about anything. But you've got to actually understand your material well enough to know what to do with it visually, and why. In this case, it's just a series of arbitrary attempts to look stylish. There's no doubt Elkins and cinematographer Yaron Levy craft some nice-looking shots, but they come in such aggressive succession - the supernatural sequences arriving at a relentless pace, with barely any room left for the story itself - that those shots leave little to no impact.

Of course, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the film is confused about its material. I mean, even its title is confused. I have absolutely no idea what 2009's The Haunting in Connecticut has to do with this movie, but apparently the producers thought it would be a good idea to brand Ghosts of Georgia as some sort of sequel. Even though the two films, as far as I can remember, are entirely unrelated. And even though nothing in this movie takes place in Connecticut, or indeed has anything to do with Connecticut at all. Does The Haunting in Connecticut offer some sort of ironclad brand recognition and I just hadn't realized it?

(And if so, does this logic work for other franchises? How about The Avengers 2: Star Trek Into Darkness? The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Iron Man 3? Pirates of the Caribbean 5: The Lone Ranger? I'm willing to take suggestions.)

Leaving aside the terrible direction for a moment, let's get back to the basics of the story. Lisa has been struggling with her "gift" for seemingly her whole life. She believes she's delusional, and takes pills to ward off her visions. When her young daughter Heidi seems to be experiencing the same types of visions, Lisa smartly tells her to . . . uh, stop having them, or something. Nope, she doesn't take her to the doctor or have her talk to a therapist. She just tells her daughter to stop it.

Anyway, Lisa and her family have just bought some land out in the country and moved into their new house. Her husband, Andy (Chad Michael Murray, who's sort of like a poor man's Josh Duhamel, who in turn is a poor man's Timothy Olyphant), is, I don't know, a security guard or something. In any case, it's a job that requires him to wear a blue uniform, even though he (not to mention Lisa) never seems to actually go to work. He just stays on his property constantly losing track of his daughter and chopping wood and stuff.

Anyway, not long after they move in, along comes Lisa's free-wheelin', cowboy boot-wearin' sister Joyce, who (against Lisa's will) encourages Heidi to embrace her special gift.

When Heidi starts getting visitations from a mysterious "Mr. Gordy" (Grant James), her parents are naturally concerned - but not concerned enough to actually do anything about it. (Fact: Lisa and Andy are very stupid people - and terrible, terrible parents. The movie does not realize this.) Here's an example: At a point in the story when things have gotten really serious and dangerous, with the family deciding they're no longer safe in their new home, Andy decides he needs to go into the house to grab a few things. And so he leaves Heidi in the car, late at night, all alone. (Oh, but don't worry, he tells her to lock the doors, so she should be just fine, right?)

Of course, that scene is just a lazy way to get Heidi alone so she can disappear without a trace (again), because heaven forbid screenwriter David Coggeshall put any actual effort into his plot developments. No sir.

The truth is, if you strip away all the visual flights of fancy and nonsensical characters, there is a full-bodied narrative idea buried beneath all the crap. At some point during the production of this movie, there was some thought put into why exactly the little girl in Ghosts of Georgia was being haunted, and by whom. Very little of that thought wound up on screen.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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