Friday, October 26, 2012

Week of Reel Whorror!: Who Wants a Clean House?! - Day 2

I hope last night you didn't have too many things go bump in the night. No matter, the Week of Reel Whorror! continues nonetheless. Not all houses are built evil. Some have evil bred into them. It's a strange concept to be sure, and some movies do a real shit job in conveying that idea. This is one such story.

The Haunting in Connecticut

Release: 03.27.09
1 hour, 42 minutes
Rated PG-13

Group Rental

In the same way her son Matt (Kyle Gallner, TV: Veronica Mars) can barely stomach his cancer treatments, Sarah Campbell (Virginia Madsen, Number 23) cannot bear to watch him suffer on their long road trips back to suburban Connecticut. Sarah and husband Peter (Martin Donovan, The Quiet) decide to rent a house near the treatment facility to ease everyone's stress. Sarah finds the perfect house for cheap; perfect and cheap if you don't mind living in an old funeral home. No one minds, except for the wayward souls that keep lurking around the Campbell's dying son.

Haunting, based on true events, tries to strike a balance between Matt's battle with cancer and the recurring appearance of ghosts in his basement digs. At times, Matt sees through the eyes of a young spirit, Jonah, who appears to Matt as an extra crispy version of his former self. The KFC spectre mainly just stares at Matt and lurches over him while he sleeps. Startling moments of here-one-second, gone-the-next are the extent of the film's overused scare tactics. I was more frightened by how often mommie dearest inexplicably left her children alone for large spans of time.

The whole damn film is one huge exercise in tedium. Like most lame-ass, teen-friendly horror flicks, jittery flashbacks tease audiences with the house's dark side. Whenever the KFC spectre goes on break, Matt splits his time between entertaining his siblings and cousin Wendy (Amanda Crew, Sex Drive), and by calling fellow cancer patient, Reverend Popescu (Elias Koteas, Zodiac), to talk death and ghosts. Judging by the Reverend's baggy attire, I assume John Goodman backed out of production and the budget didn't allow for a refitting for Koteas. Regardless, Koteas gives it his all.

Haunting cuts a lot of corners. Scenes are notably grainy. At first it seemed to set a mood, but when conversation sequences shift continually between poorly-shot and strikingly clear, it's friggin' annoying. The script works the same. When Matt's visits by the KFC spectre are confirmed, Encylopedia Wendy is on the case and in an afternoon uncovers the entire history of the hell house. The religious faith of Sarah and the Reverend are treated as taboo, almost as if the spirits themselves didn't allow more to be written into the story. I could stomach all these weaknesses if I wasn't being spoon-fed every other frivolous detail of the Campbells' life.

Dirty Undies
Gentle scares are mildly unnerving at best. The children seem to be in peril, but aside from treating Matt like an Etch-A-Sketch, the ghosts do very little besides stand around. Also, the shockingly horrific reveal doesn't make a lick of sense! A sure-fire indication a horror flick sucks is when the explanation creates more questions than it answers.

The Money Shot
The Haunting in Connecticut was so dull, I felt my brain shut off about ten minutes into it. As the climax approached and I snapped to attention, I realized I didn't know anything about Matt, his family, the KFC spectre or the other spirits I'd been watching for over an hour. The worst part? It didn't fucking matter. When it was all said and done, The Haunting in Connecticut amounted to nothing more than boredom in the theater.

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