This is a movie which must be addressed from two different directions: first, as a straight horror film; and second, as an effort that purports to be “based on true events.” Lets look at its strictly cinematic role to begin with.
Peter (Martin Donovan) and Sara Campbell (Virginia Madsen) have a problem. Their teenage son, Matt (Kyle Gallner) has a probably terminal cancer. Apart from the disease’s fraying their nerves and their marriage, it complicates their raising of Matt’s young brother, Billy (Ty Wood), and sister, Mary (Sophi Knight). Fortunately, Sara’s niece, Wendy (Amanda Crew) is living with them — able to provide baby-sitting as needed and, being about Matt’s age, friendship for her afflicted cousin. More after the jump:
All of this is necessary, because every day Sara must drive Matt 300 miles round trip to a hospital in Connecticut from the family’s New York City home — a trip made all the worse by Matt’s weakness and nausea. At length, it is resolved that the clan will rent a house near the hospital, and the father will spend the weekends with them. Sara must find a suitable house, and thinks she has: a multileveled old colonial mansion of a place. Despite its size and elegance, it is very reasonable. The reason, of course, is that it has a past.
However far away in years that past may be, it is obviously very close in spirit. Strange things begin happening almost immediately — at first more seen by the audience than the players. Matt begins having visions of a harried young boy (Erik J. Berg) and his sinister Smith Brothers cough-drops box-looking boss (John Bluethner). The thrills and chills mount with increasing (and believable) terror, as Matt begins to behave ever more strangely, and more about the house’s former career as mortuary and séance parlor appears. Helping to solve the mystery and bring the action to a satisfying conclusion is Rev. Nicholas Popescu (Elias Koteas), a fellow cancer sufferer with Matt, and one apparently informed of the strange paths of the supernatural.
As an entertainment, The Haunting in Connecticut is a success. The characters feel authentic, and we do end up caring about what happens to them. The stresses and strains of family life are accurately portrayed. This makes the eruption of the ghostly into their lives all the more jarring and effective. Even at their most explicit, the supernatural phenomena avoid degenerating into the hokey. In a word, it is well done. The “Making of…” featurette does a competent job of shedding light on the production, as does the commentary on the deleted scenes.
So far, so good. But what of the “Real Events” part? Well, the film was indeed inspire by alleged events at the home of the Snedeker family in Southington Connecticut. As with the Campbells, the Snedekers had a cancer-beset teenage son, and moved into a former funeral home — in Southington, Connecticut. Strange apparitions and occurrences were claimed to have occurred with increasing frequency, until the family at length sought the help of famed ghost-hunting duo Ed and Lorraine Warren. Having dealt with other such cases that became movies (The Amityville Horror, The Haunted), the now-deceased Warrens have long been lightning rods for controversy, and the Snedeker case was no different. They secured the services of horror writer Ray Garton, who wrote what he later maintained was a highly fictionalized version of the affair, In a Dark Place.
Garton and a number of others involved have done their best to debunk the Snedeker haunting. This is good to know, because “The Fear is Real: Reinvestigating the Haunting” is a two part featurette involving interviews with Snedeker family members, Mrs. Warren, and others responding to the mentioned charges. Obviously, the featurette is vaguely favorable toward the Snedekers, and just as obviously — as with most supposedly true hauntings — more questions are left than answers. Nevertheless, this featurette is VERY thought provoking, and is as much a part of the pleasure to be gained from the DVD as the movie itself.
Much the same might be said of another featurette, Anatomy of a Haunting, with deals with the ghost issue in a much wider context. Particularly notable are the comments of Dr. Barry Taff, who. although relying on science rather than ESP has, like the Warrens, investigated cases that have inspired films — in his case, The Entity. Here too, the point-of-view sort of supports the paranormal.
In any case, for believers and skeptics alike, there will be much food for thought. And for those who don’t care whether their fears are real or imaginary, a very good time!
Featurettes — “Two Dead Boys: The Making of The Haunting in Connecticut;”
“The Fear is Real: Reinvestigating the Haunting,” Parts 1 and 2; “Anatomy of a Haunting;” “‘Memento Mori,’ The history of Postmortem Photography.”
Audio commentaries with Producer, director, cast, and crew.
Deleted Scenes with optional Commentary by director Peter Cornwell
Digital Copy Also Included.
Language — English; Subtitles — English and Spanish.
Get scared out of your wits AND expand your mind!