‘The Haunting in Connecticut’ takes a while, but finally delivers

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 26, 2009 8:11pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Amityville isn’t in Connecticut, right? So when “The Haunting in Connecticut” begins with the words, “Based on the true story,” it means some other yarn about ghostly possession of a cursed home (which, being based on “the true story,” you should already be familiar with).

All right, this true story supposedly took place in 1987, when a family rented a house that was formerly a funeral home. Probably that had nothing to do with the haunting. Totally coincidental. Don’t even give it another thought.

We meet the Campbell family as they decide to move into the big old house (in Connecticut) so they can be near a hospital for teenage son Matt (Kyle Gallner). He’s going through an experimental cancer treatment, and has been warned that the drugs can cause hallucinations.

Hallucinations? Oh sure — that’s what they’d like you to think. Something reality-based. But we all know “the true story” is about a 1920s spiritualist with a tendency to cough up ectoplasm, and a basement slab room where evil things happened.

Matt’s parents, played by Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan, don’t see the odd visions he sees. At least one other person sees dead people: the movie’s composer, who has a variety of shock effects ready every time a shadow enters the frame.

Matt meets a fellow patient, the ever-blissed-out Elias Koteas, who mutters a lot about inhabiting the borderlands between life and death. Surely he can help find an answer to the mysterious doings (in Connecticut).

Director Peter Cornwall does a slick job with the material, and is especially good at whipping up a storm of activity in the final 40 minutes.

Veteran writers Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe cleverly fill in the backstory with various brands of hugger-mugger, and once the awkward opening reels are over and the door-rattling, light-flicking, polstergeist-ing mayhem kicks in, it is effective.

They haven’t been able to solve certain basic issues, such as the need for the parents to leave their kids alone in the house in the middle of the night even after they’ve established that the undead might be restless. Why is there that need? Because the kids have to be in jeopardy for the big climax, that’s why.

Won’t make that mistake again. Nor will they ignore the seemingly innocent comment that “The house does have a bit of history” when looking to rent.

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