Monday, 13 April 2009

The Haunting In Connecticut

Now, I love a great horror, when I was far too young I used to record the likes of The Exorcist and Candyman from the telly and scare the crap out of myself watching them in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, The Haunting in Connecticut is not a great horror, and I doubt had I seen it at 14 that it would have shaped my cinematic experiences as they did.

To sum up the plot: boy is cancer sufferer, his family move, new house is creepy, bad things start happening - so far, so average. The spooky goings on in the house Matt (cancer son) and family relocate to are neatly attributed to 2 variables. Firstly, cancer sufferers (explains new friend and handy plot device the Priest), occupy a place in the world equivalent to “walking in the valley of the shadow of death”, and secondly, the house was formerly a funeral home – d’oh.

To start with the good, the creepy atmosphere is well established and maintained through muted washed-out colours and a decent score. To go off topic slightly (I’m allowed, it’s my blog), I think music is so important with horror, we subconsciously take cues from it, it raises our heart rate without us even knowing it, and it is, in my opinion, the most important weapon a film maker has to build suspense. Think about Carpenter’s signature synths, used to such great effect in Assault on Precinct 13, or the now much spoofed and over-used knifing noise from Psycho, the constant and unnerving hum and grumble of the generators in Texas Chainsaw Massacre that keep you on edge – they make the films. When you can’t rely on your eyesight being led through a darkened forest, or trapped in a blacked out room hiding in terror from an unknown evil, it’s the score that keeps the horror going – it’s essential for a horror score to be great.

Anyway, geeky and irrelevant aside over, Kyle Gallner as Matt looks suitably peaky through the majority of the film, that is until his remarkable burst of energy at the end that somewhat beggars belief. Also the scares aren’t bad, if a little predictable, and there’s the inevitable, you-think-it’s-all-over-but-oh-no-there’s-more “twist” at the end.

Now for the bad, considering the story is anchored somewhat in truth, it seemed sadly lacking in originality. It incorporates bits and bobs from most horror sub-genres: poltergeists, zombies, mummies, ghostly visions, séances etc. It even “borrows” key moments from some of the crème de la crème of horror – while some might enjoy playing “spot the famous scene they’ve ripped off from The Shining / The Birds” etc, others, myself and the boy included, might just find it derivative. The character of Matt’s father is also woefully underdeveloped (I can’t even remember his name), and some contrived scenes were laughable in their clichedness. Also, beware the little box of treats discovered when digging up the dark past of their new home, if you didn’t like Goldmember’s “collection”, you won’t like theirs...

I can’t help but feel I’m being a bit harsh though, The Haunting in Connecticut is, on the whole, better than a majority of the recent surge of poor Japanese remakes. However, it’s certainly no modern classic, and I doubt anyone truly found themselves on the edge of their seat.

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