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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Haunting in Connecticut


Starring: Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallne, Elias Koteas, Amanda Crew and Martin Donovan
Entertainment in Video
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 20 July 2009

Sarah Campbell has been driving 300 mile round trips daily to take her teenage son, Matt, who is very sick with advanced cancer, to a clinic for a programme of intensive treatment. When she passes a large house for rent, she inquires as to its availability and is surprised and pleased that it is affordable. The family of four, along with two child relatives, move in and almost immediately Matt begins to have frightening sightings of figures covered in symbols, with sightless eyes. He also undergoes a series of flashbacks, like he is witnessing horrific past events through the eyes of another. Initially, he elects not to tell anyone, because a doctor had said if he starts to see things they will have to stop the treatment. But not only does his temperament noticeably change, the other children undergo their own terrifying experiences. There are definite links to the past when the house was a funeral home, and in particular to a young boy. The presence in the house steadily grows, making the family fear for its safety...

There has been a steady stream of haunted house films supposedly based on true stories, ever since the remake of the Amityville Horror - most of which have been pretty damn awful. Let’s face it, it’s easy to use such a ‘banner’ as a selling point. However, when planning this film the crew went in search of the family which had so often been in the American stateside news back in the 1980s. Apparently, they didn’t want to be found, but convinced by director Peter Cornwell that they wanted to tell the true story, some filmed interviews were arranged. Whether you believe in these supernatural happenings or not, they make for an interesting 2-part documentary included as an extra. Several occurrences spoken about in this have been incorporated into the film, but it’s worth being reminded that this is a Hollywood movie. It’s objective will always primarily be to entertain. So it’s not surprising to discover a great deal of poetic licence has been grouped in with the main theme.

Whilst the character of the cancer-stricken ex-priest is in some mannerisms reminiscent of the Hammer or Friday oddball who steps out and says “Don go thar!” it’s easy to overlook this, as the rest of the production is so taut. These people have really used their heads here and leaned a few things from the Japanese and other East Asian supernatural horror flicks which have made such a successful mark on the genre in the last eight or ten years. Timing, atmosphere, tight plotting and strong characterisation are all in place here; none more so than with central protagonist Matt (played by Kyle Gallner) who is genuinely convincing in his portrayal of an extremely sick teenage boy. This is a considerable achievement considering the array of emotions Matt undergoes throughout the film.

As for the scares, they are very well-handled, with one in particular causing me to physically gasp and my scalp to crawl. This very seldom happens to me any more, I suppose through desensitisation. The balance and unexpected timing are superb. The idea that people close to death live in a sort of limbo enabling them to see these apparitions is an intelligent plot device to allow firstly only Matt to have the experiences, but then as the atmosphere in the house builds, incorporating the other children and then the adults. In this manner, suspension is allowed to build to a crescendo. A highly enjoyable feature, with great attention to detail.

Extras include: Two Dead Boys - The Making of …; The Fear is Real - Reinvestigating The Haunting (in two parts); Anatomy of a Haunting, and Deleted Scenes.


Ty Power

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