“One Bright Day in the Middle of the Night, Two Dead Boys Got Up to Fight.”

I went and checked out “The Haunting in Connecticut” Sunday night.

Despite the many negative reviews it is finding itself tormented by (woot), I generally… really enjoyed the movie. However, let me preface this with saying I went into the movie, and proceeded to watch what was presented in front of me, with a sense that what I was about to partake in was entertainment, and in no way, shape, or form, anywhere near being “true.” I read a review a day or two ago that basically summed up this idea that if you watch what is on screen… you’ll be taken out of the scene because your human quality of rationality will fully dismiss the idea of taking what’s on screen as legitimate. I agreed with this reviewer immediately, and forgot about the review instantly. I went to see the movie, not preparing myself to dismiss the factual claim, but for the simple pleasure of going to see a movie to be entertained and unwind after a stressful day. I watched the movie completely disconnected from taking it as true, but rather as entertainment, and it’s quite enjoyable if you carry on with this approach… which is how I will be thinking about it when discussing it. As a good screenplay, not fact-based truth.

I must start with this: I don’t get scared at “horror”/scary movies. No matter how loud or forceful the moviemakers try and pack the “Dolby punches” (great new term for sudden scares invoked by a jolt of audio), I never jump or flinch at any of them, I wish I did, but I don’t. That being said, I can still appreciate their efforts and good intention. However, I do, and always have, freak out and get incredibly uncomfortable when I see post-mortem photography, or pictures of the living posed with the dead, which was a common practice in the Victorian Era… and this movie opens up with the creepiest post-mortem photographs. I understand it’s use and to some extent, its expression of honoring the dead and remembering them, but something about disturbing them from “resting in peace” to dress them up and position them as though alive is not right to me.

This movie has some good, frightening visuals. The parts that are supposed to rattle the audience will succeed if you’re a person that jumps at these types of sudden scares. The elements of terror that the movie presents are generally off-putting, even to a person that doesn’t get scared by sudden loud noises. It is cleverly executed despite using the same general gimmicks as every other modern horror that is tossed out of the machine these days.

The story and set up is simple. It centers around a teenager named Matt that is sick from cancer. His doctor/hospital is 4 hours away in Connecticut and after numerous 4 hour routine trips back and forth, his mother, Sara (Virginia Madsen), decides the family must find a place to rent in Connecticut to be closer to the doctor as Matt is about to begin a new type of chemotherapy in the attempt to cure his cancer. Soon after, events begin taking place in which Matt cannot discern between reality or hallucinations thought to be induced by his new medication/treatment. These events are usually really good in their execution in which a little back story about the house is revealed as Matt is freaked out by these “visions.” Eventually, the same strange events begin making its way to other members of the family, but mostly out of sight to the character, viewable only by the audience, and nowhere near the extent of Matt’s encounters. It’s soon revealed that their new home used to serve as a funeral home, and the house is plagued by the previous owner of the house, who used to conduct seances in the effort of channeling the dead through the use of a kid named Jonah, who was a powerful medium. Simply put: the house is possessed.

I loved the feel and editing of the movie. I felt like it was a strong, good story as long as you did not think about it as being true. There are certain parts that just make you stop and think, “there is no way this is/was real at all,” and those moments totally take away from the experience. For this one, you need to just allow yourself to drown in disbelief rather than attempt to swim in the sea of believability.

One particular aspect I really liked was that there were no deaths to the family, and no elements of possession over the character to attempt to kill his family (a la Amityville, another movie about a possessed house).  The movie just has frightening images appearing and weird occurrences, but never do any of the ***spoiler alert*** dead bodies that are behind the haunting of the house become zombified and attack the characters. ***end spoiler*** Rather, it takes a fairly legitimate approach and just has the characters seeing visions in their subconcious or in the corners of their eyes, and then having that image be gone a split-second later. I liked that the movie didn’t try and make the movie TOO horror-based by having characters fear for their life.

Another element I really liked of the movie was the commentary and sub-plot that dealt with how families and people feel when someone they love, or they themselves, are stricken by cancer. Matt’s family is heavily affected by it. The movie makes a point to show that these situations don’t just harm a family emotionally, but financially. The price of cancer and its treatment is depicted nicely in the movie, as you feel for the characters when they have to deal with the monetary price of the situation. However, the price and toll it takes on the patient is also something I really liked in the movie. In the movie, Matt meets a reverend that is also sick with cancer, and they bond over where they find themselves in life. The commentary in this sub-plot really interested me as the reverend describes that in life, most people go through life steadily until they reach the path to death. They, however, take the extended, more scenic route. Patients with serious cancer find themselves in a kind of “living-purgatory,” in which they are going through the motions of life, but a completely aware of their current position in life, and that their time may be a little quicker on them than others. It’s been a couple days since I’ve seen the movie so I can’t elaborate on this much more until a second viewing, but this is something I found really interesting.

To sum up, I think The Haunting in Connecticut was an entertaining story with some stylized editing and frightening visuals. It makes for a much more enjoyable experience if you suspend all disbelief when entering the theater for this one.

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~ by ericgarza on 2009/03/31.

5 Responses to ““One Bright Day in the Middle of the Night, Two Dead Boys Got Up to Fight.””

  1. excellent review, although my interpretation of the film was that the ‘zombified dead bodies’ were actually the tormented souls of the bodies hidden in the house.

    i had the opportunity to see this at sxsw and was glad i did. the director was there along with the real-life mother, who, disappointingly, did not conclusively answer questions from the crowd as to 1) whether the film was factual and true to the real-life story and 2) whether there were actual bodies stuffed into the house. i’m a skeptic and so i believe about half the stuff in the film was malarkey, although they did well on explaining and showing ectoplasm and post-mortem photos (which creeped me out too).

  2. yeah! the ectoplasm bit was too cool, man. when it was just the still photo of it (not the actual visual of the event) it kind of reminded me of Frank from Donnie Darko. It kind of had that same outline/look of the rabbit head that’s on the DVD cover. i <3 u.

  3. well it was okay any ideas wether that place is real it said based on a true story but really??? how far do they expect to suspend my disbelief…?

  4. Cole-
    As I said, the movie was entertaining to me strictly because I watched it solely for entertainment and not as a fact-based tale. I’ve come to learn that movies focusing primarily on a “based/inspired by” tag are hardly worth a grain of salt. As you said, how far do they expect us to suspend our disbelief?

  5. in retrospect, i have no idea why i used the word “malarkey” in my earlier comment.

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