Hollywood plays a terrific April Fools#039; prank with Haunting

by Beacon Staff • April 1, 2009

Apparently the movie industry was celebrating April Fools' Day a few days early with the release of their latest joke-of-film, iThe Haunting in Connecticut/i.

Claiming to be another "based on true events" spectacle, nothing about this film comes across as having been based on anything but other horror movies' plots. An obvious mash-up of iThe Amityville Horror/i, iThe Exorcism of Emily Rose/i and iThe Others/i (with a splash of iThe Exorcist/i thrown in for good measure), director Peter Cornwell brings nothing new to the paranormal horror movie genre.

An utter mess from the opening credits to the "climactic" final sequences, iThe Haunting in Connecticut/i uses the horror-movie "safety net" of pairing ear-splitting sounds with creepy images that jump out of nowhere to get cheaply manufactured scares.

The film begins and it is immediately revealed that Sarah Campbell's (Virginia Madsen) son Matt (Kyle Gallner) is battling cancer.

The story takes place in 1987, when certain forms of treatment were still being tested on willing patients.

As his condition worsens, Sarah makes the decision to uproot herself and her family from their New Jersey home to upstate Connecticut in order to be closer to Matt's treatment facility.

This aspect of the plot is entirely acceptable (and perhaps the aspect that is the only thing actually based on "true events").

Unfortunately, this portion of the film lasts for about the first 15 minutes; then absolute absurdity ensues.

Almost instantly, Cornwell unleashes a barrage clicheacute; horror movie stunts: a ghost that pops up, a few eerie sounds, some freaky digital effects and some very cheesy acting.

At first, it appears that this film may have potential to be frightening, since the effects themselves are well executed, if slightly by-the-book; however, inserting these moments of "fright" into almost every scene becomes predictable and dreadfully dull.

Cornwell overuses these gimmicks and thus, the film loses any sense of real horror because there is no longer the element of shock as the audience becomes trained to anticipate the scares before they are even revealed.

As the film drones on, the secrets of the house are revealed (big surprise: it used to be a funeral home) and the director uses this as an opportunity to include as many images of blurred figures running by and suddenly flashing across the screen whenever possible, as well as gross-out moments (like mopping the floor with blood) to try and scare the audience and remind everyone that this is a horror movie.

It really doesn't work.

Ultimately, this is one big "things-that-go-bump-in-the-night" horror story clicheacute;.

Virginia Madsen is believable whenever she is not subjected to the film's painfully expository dialogue.

It is such a shame that poor writing brings her performance down to such a soggy and shameless level (this happened before with her in iThe Number 23/i. Maybe she should think about firing her agent).

The few moments when she doesn't speak make you recognize that, had writers Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe actually composed a script where the conversation is not so hackneyed and strained, perhaps Madsen would have been able to perform convincingly).

The rest of the cast is just as dull, and the fact that none of them have had many previous roles (aside from actress Amanda Crew's stunning performances in iFinal Destination 3/i and iSex Drive/i) makes sense as they butcher the already horrific speech.

While sitting through iThe Haunting in Connecticut/i, it was shocking to note how much of the plot and moments in the movie were so obviously lifted from other horror movies. There is actually a scene in which Amanda Crew locks the front door as Kyle Gallner approaches and begins hacking through it with an ax-clearly avoiding subtlety, Cornwell seems to ignore the fact that nearly everyone is familiar with the famous scene from iThe Shining/i.

It is actually frustrating, and can be considered an insult to the audience, that film begins with the words "Based On The True Events..." before the movie starts because the film itself is so absurd and clearly implausible from start to finish.

In the end, Hollywood deserves an applause for delivering the ultimate April Fools' Day prank: releasing iThe Haunting in Connecticut/i to the poor unsuspecting moviegoers of the world just looking for a easy, breezy scare.