Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of terror and disturbing images, 92 minutes
Chilling but uneven "Haunting in Connecticut" has some creepy, tense moments
A family moves into a haunted house. Supposedly based on true events. A peculiar priest is involved. Weird, scary things start happening. Sound familiar? That's the plot of the new horror film "The Haunting in Connecticut," which resembles the schlocky 1970's "true events" story "The Amityville Horror," about a family inhabiting a home with haunted spirits. "Haunting" is less cheesy than "Amityville" though much like that film, is vastly fictionalized. "Haunting" is a modestly entertaining horror film that amidst a muddled, uneven script, is tense and creepy enough to generate some jumpy thrills.
Matt and Sara Campbell (Martin Donovan and Virginia Madsen) are having a hard time of it. Their teenage son Matt (Kyle Gallner) is very ill with cancer, with an outlook that isn't hopeful. Rather than drive him back and forth to his treatments in Connecticut, they rent a home there and take their children along with their niece Wendy (Amanda Crew) to live.
Shortly after moving in, Matt begins experiencing some supernatural events - frightening dreams and hallucinations involving some dead kid named Jonah (Erik J. Berg). They discover the house was an old funeral home run by a guy who did strange things to dead people, and with the help of an ill priest (Elias Koteas) that Matt meets in treatment, that Jonah and the spirits are unleashing horror on the family with a deadly purpose of taking Matt back on the other side.
"The Haunting in Connecticut" is a supernatural horror thriller that's mildly engaging but hardly believable, given it's supposedly true-life connections. The film is loosely based on a couple of sources: the late 1980's experiences of the Snedeker family, which itself was part of the recent Discovery Family channel "A Haunting" series. The story keeps the basic story outline but ventures out by fictionalizing a lot of the backstory of what happened in the funeral parlor.
Directed by Peter Cornwell and scribed by horror film writers Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe, there are enough tense, jumpy moments and creepy images (particularly when the ectoplasmic creature thing comes popping out of a guy's mouth) that create a chilling atmosphere, even though the characters and story lack a dramatic shape or connection to relate to. Character actor Donovan is wasted as the father, though it's always nice to see the lovely Madsen of "Sideways," who's wholly believable as the mother (and who has the film's scariest scene). Another familiar face, Koteas doesn't have near enough to do as the priest, a composite character, while the lanky Gallner has a couple of memorable, stirring scenes as sickly son who could also have some mental problems.
"Haunting in Connecticut" builds on a creepy, tense atmosphere until the film's last act, when it veers way off track and stumbles to a confusing climax filled with fire and dead bodies lacks the chills of the film's first half. The minimal special effects do add some nice touches, in particular those yucky eyelids and body etchings used to good effect. "Haunting" is far from a perfect film - taken as fact it's a little ludicrous - but taken strictly as entertainment - it's creepy and scary enough to literally get under your skin.