Tuesday 29 October 2013

From the archive: "The Haunting in Connecticut"

It's been a duff season for horror. We've been beset by pointlessness (Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine), pretension (The Broken), more sadism (Martyrs); perhaps it's no surprise that the horror movie critics and audiences have best responded to (Let the Right One In) is the one that barely functions as such. Audiences have shown greater faith in Peter Cornwell's The Haunting in Connecticut than the film's distributors (who hustled it into cinemas without a press screening), and there may be more than a little relief in their response to a film that earns its creeps and scares the old-fashioned way, with a modicum of patience and - yes - even craft. Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan move their brood to a suspiciously innocuous suburban pile to be closer to the hospital at which their eldest (Kyle Gallner) is receiving treatment for cancer. Soon, said son is seeing floors awash with blood, and nefarious activity behind the frosted glass of a locked door; of course, it could just be his meds.

Though Cornwell makes use of some of the gimcrack sound-and-editing effects that marked 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the last post-Exorcist chiller to use science and religion to give some credibility to a study of (allegedly true-life) unexplained phenomena, the screenplay - co-authored by horror scholar Adam Simon - does something unusual and smart in linking its supernatural terrors to the feelings of pain and helplessness that must follow from suffering a terminal illness, or watching a loved one die. Muted, unhurried, and - for all its scuttling bugs and crabs - admirably low-key, it's also performed with a welcome degree of sincerity: Madsen (refining her now-stock over-burdened mom role) and Donovan (succumbing to the devil of a drink inside him) make a very handsome couple, and Gallner is a rare screen sufferer to actually look sickly beneath his brave smiles. Nothing too remarkable, but decently assembled and satisfying in its storytelling, offering both rational and religiose explanations for most of its mysteries.

(April 2009)

The Haunting in Connecticut is available on DVD through Entertainment in Video; a sequel, The Haunting in Connecticut 2: The Ghosts of Georgia, opens in cinemas nationwide this Thursday.

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