Published Mar 26, 2009While technically a haunted house movie, The Haunting in Connecticut would be best described as a drama about the internal mind-body struggle involved in battling cancer and the tendency to embrace and explore spirituality when faced with impending mortality. It succeeds on this allegorical level, proving thoughtful, if partially irresponsible, but fails miserably on a narrative front, as the actual story plays too overtly as expositional fodder to support the deeper meaning.
The Campbell family, strapped for cash, come upon an abandoned mortuary with cheap rent when looking for a home closer to the hospital where teenage Matt (Kyle Gallner) receives experimental treatments for cancer. While mom (Virginia Madsen) does her damnedest to keep the family together, pop (Martin Donovan) struggles with sobriety and Matt demonstrates increasingly erratic behaviour, lashing out at those around him and regularly encountering otherworldly manifestations.
With missing eyelids and bodies covered in carvings, the actual ghosts are fairly creepy to behold, but the constant dwelling on jump scares, excess sound tracking and obvious set-ups are far too routine and strained to create any sort of mood or genuine chills. As performances and production values are well above average for a film of this nature, attention to mood rather than cheap stylization may have saved Haunting from occasional unintentional humour.
Along with a weary horror element, the drama in the picture struggles from similar issues of contrivance and familiarity. Characters state that they love each other, and point out their flaws, but never demonstrate these things in a revealing and personal manner. It seems, for the most part, that pesky things like back story and relationships are tagged out of necessity to support the overall idea, without a great deal of deeper consideration.
As a result, the film is difficult to connect to, or appreciate, outside of its examination of internal illness as external horror. This message, however, almost makes dealing with these many flaws worthwhile. (Maple)