Review: The Haunting in Connecticut

The Haunting of Connecticut clearly spent more time on the satanic markings etched into its undead ghouls’ skin than on its script.

The Haunting in Connecticut
Photo: Lionsgate

Peter Cornwell’s The Haunting of Connecticut clearly spent more time on the satanic markings etched into its undead ghouls’ skin than on its script, a shameless amalgam of The Amityville Horror, The Shining, and Poltergeist, among others, whose sole original contribution to the genre is chronic clownishness. Characters respond to the discovery that their kitchen’s fruit and fridge contents have supernaturally turned rotten by nonchalantly taking a shower, kids habitually play hide and seek in the scariest corners of their underlit mansion, and a boy dying of cancer, Matt (Kyle Gallner), chooses for a bedroom the basement, which has a spooky locked glass door that no one cares to seriously investigate. Singling out specific illogicalities and/or ridiculous developments, however, would be to imply that anything about this drearily derivative PG-13 ghost story actually works. Claiming to be “based on the real story,” Cornwell’s 1987-set film concerns Matt and his family—led by a mother (Virginia Madsen) struggling to maintain belief in God and a father (Martin Donovan) trying to stay on the wagon—moving into a former Connecticut funeral parlor to be closer to the hospital where Matt receives radiation treatments, and discovering that it’s plagued by invisible mummies with no eyelids and bodies covered in lettering. For evil spirits, these ghosts do little more than pester Matt with creepy hallucinations that his parents fear are the side effects of his clinical trial treatments, and lurk in the shadows directly behind his younger siblings. Nonetheless, they’re disconcerting enough to have Matt enlist the help of a dying reverend (Elias Koteas) also conveniently receiving cancer treatment, who—elucidating the particular pseudo-religious rules governing this dreck—explains that only those in the “borderland” between the living and the dead can see, and combat, the menacing phantoms. Given that its most unsettling sight is of a barely-trying Donovan affecting drunken grief and rage by lethargically smashing the guitar he was playing, Haunting of Connecticut doesn’t have to worry about line-straddling, its crummy scares and laughable stabs at a faith-restored narrative granting it permanent residence in the realm of C-grade cheese.

 Cast: Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Elias Koteas, Amanda Crew, Martin Donovan, Sophi Night, Ty Wood, Erik J. Berg, John Bluethner  Director: Peter Cornwell  Screenwriter: Adam Simon, Tim Metcalfe  Distributor: Lionsgate  Running Time: 92 min  Rating: PG-13  Year: 2009  Buy: Video

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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