“The Haunting in Connecticut”
Lionsgate, Gold Circle Films
At Quality 16 and Showcase

Courtesy of Lionsgate/Gold Circle

3.5 out of 5 stars

The scariest horror stories are always the true ones, which might explain the increasingly popular trend of recreating (or at least re-imagining) classic horror tales. “The Haunting in Connecticut” is very much a part of that trend.

The movie begins with real headlines of the strange events that occurred in a Connecticut house not too long ago. While the technique of adding “based on a true story” to the beginning of a horror movie can result in an overly dramatized plot, “Haunting” breaks the mold and creates a genuinely paranormal experience.

The film follows a financially burdened family forced to find a home close to a major hospital so that the oldest son can receive cancer treatment. The mother, Sara Campbell (Virginia Madsen, “The Number 23”), finds a place that’s cheap, close to the hospital and spacious enough for the whole family. But, of course, there’s a catch nobody realizes until it’s too late.

Surprisingly, the film’s greatest asset is its plot, and that’s what separates “Haunting” from others in its genre. Many of the plot details actually make sense, and the characters are not victims just to be victims. The fact the family has no money and is forced to pick an abandoned home to live in isn’t just an arbitrary fact — it matters. Even the oldest son’s weakened condition (he’s pretty much living with one foot in the grave) is made an acceptable justification for his ability to see the ghastly entities. Finally, the strange occurrences in the house are teasing and realistic enough to engage audiences. Ultimately, it’s the combination of realistic detail and plausible scenarios that make “Haunting” stand out from similarly styled films.

Horror films are often criticized for not being scary enough because movie audiences have become so desensitized they’re almost impossible to scare (especially when watching with others in the room). So it’s not surprising that “Haunting” employs age-old, cheap scare tactics — someone’s face suddenly appearing out of the dark, for instance — to jolt the audience from time to time. Of course, it would have been nice to see something disturbing in a mind-fuck sort of way instead of the traditional swift camera turns. But a film can only do so much while maintaining a cohesive plot and a PG-13 rating. Still, it’s unfortunate there’s nothing truly horrific or terrifying throughout the movie.

While acting is generally not worth discussing in horror movies, something must be said for Kyle Gallner (“Gardens of the Night”) as the ailing son. His portrayal of a boy who has little chance of survival but struggles every day for his family is marvelous. He’s creepy, but in an appropriate way. Gallner’s performance is yet another detail that makes “Haunting” stand out just a little bit more from the pack.

“Haunting” isn’t perfect, but it comes closer than many other horror movies today, boasting a provocative story, a few scares and even some decent acting. Though it may not be remembered for long, the film contains elements that horror movies will (hopefully) adopt in the future.

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