"Based on a true story". I've now begun to take things with a pinch of salt, because those five words more often than not just tries to give a horror film some street cred, trying to deflect some knuckles of familiarity by claiming that it's something experienced versus something dreamt up. I have one of my own too (that happened to someone else), which is based on a creepy mirror bought from Thailand being hung in a room, and thereafter a child continuously claiming that she sees a man standing by the window licking an ice cream every night. while the mom didn't and couldn't see anything, she got freaked out nonetheless. This stopped when the mirror got covered up and locked in a cupboard.
But there you go, a premise of a horror film in itself, involving a home, a parent, a kid and a (benign) ghostly apparition. The Haunting in Connecticut follows those like Amityville Horror, Psycho, Poltegeist and the likes, even shades of The Shining too if you please. It's centered upon a house which is dirt cheap in rent, but only because of the things that go bump in the night, given its dark and ugly past which Sara Campbell (Virginia Madsen) decides to take no heed of, in order to house their family close to the hospital where cancer-stricken son Matt (Kyle Gallner) has to undergo frequent therapy.
For starters, the film has a relatively strong introduction, where once you got by the rather creepy opening credits, you're introduced to the family proper. After all, it's a story about a family's ordeal (remember those 5 words?) with the supernatural, which initially got you suspecting whether it's all in Matt's hallucinating mind since he's under some strong medication, and of all places decide to make the basement into his room, complete with the set from Hostel with macabre tools complementing the decor.
But what I like about the film, is how it plays up on beliefs, such as children being able to see and somewhat interact with their "invisible friends", or for those at the brink of death given an ability to see extra things within their field of vision, since they're only a stone's throw away to the other side. In fact, this aspect plays up a lot more as the film goes on, since the potential exorcist, Reverend Popescu (Elias Koteas) happens to be Matt's fellow patient, and serves as consultant to piece together the teenager's findings of newspaper clippings, photographs, and well-preserved body parts.
Like all decent horror films, this one comes with the requisite backstory which provides the rationale why the place has additional inhabitants, suffice to say that it's a reminder never to tempt fate or play with fire, and to pick your choice of homes carefully, never one that used to be a mortuary for example. But while the family angle was off the blocks in a strong start, it whimpered toward the end by bringing in a wasteful tangent dealing with Peter Campbell's (Martin Donovan) inability to handle mounting debt pressures that his family now find themselves in.
Technically, the film scored an ace, utilizing a full repetoire of sudden movements and appearances, extreme close ups, smoke and mirrors, banging doors and flashing lights to great effect. While these may not be something that's not already cliched, and in truth being innovative and original is getting extremely tough, these tried and tested moments still worked somehow under Peter Cornwell's direction in building anticipation, just waiting for something expected to happen became part of the fun.
The Haunting in Connecticut is yet another creepy house story that's fortunately still slightly above average, where the fun factor would come with watching this with a full house of squemish teenagers who would scream at just anything that moves.