The Haunting in Connecticut sounds vaguely scarier than The Ham-ityville Horror — a more fitting title for a film so unfailingly cheesy.
There are occasionally goosebumps during the film’s oogie backstory of its haunted house, and a tin full of eyelids is a shockingly gruesome sight. But it so often flays skin off a decaying horse by combining J-horror tropes (ghosts as vessels to vindicate victims), supposedly based-on-truth shock tactics (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and disease movie-of-the-week melodrama.
Most terminally ill folks might consider Arizona to improve climatic surroundings for health. However, for the Campbell family, Connecticut cuts short their current 8-hour drive — with vomit stops — for cancer-riddled teen son Matt (Kyle Gallner).
Available for a song — the reasons for which will become perilously clear — matriarch Sara (Virginia Madsen) purchases a large home that casts long shadows. You know the type: When mops hit the floor, the water turns to blood and support pillars turn into maggoty, mushy messes in mere seconds. Even the Realtor plunges the for-sale sign into the ground ominously.
Drawn to the spacious basement, Kyle suffers nightmarish visions that could be hallucinations from experimental treatment … or of the home’s horrible past as a funeral parlor.
As the visions intensify, the entire Campbell family is endangered, although they purport to not know what ectoplasm is (this in a film set in 1987, well after Ghostbusters made it a household word).
Madsen proves her career resurrection via Sideways was unwarranted, delivering maternal concern with the flattest affect possible and embarking on embarrassing crying jags.
Meanwhile, Gallner confuses anguish with constipated facial expressions, and his pallid makeup makes him look more like a Twilight vampire about to sparkle than a cancer patient.
After about the 35th boo scare in as many minutes, The Haunting in Connecticut joins a growing legion of 2009 films offering self-reflective commentary on its own crappiness: “We’re bored,” shouts the baby brother.
The Blu-ray presentation does afford the overtime efforts of sound design an opportunity to shine in a vibrant DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack.
Unfortunately, the disc’s startup is as slow as the film – taking forever to spin up to a top menu allowing a choice between unrated (102 minutes) and theatrical (92 minutes) cuts of the film.
The unrated cut offers two commentaries — one with director Peter Cornwell, producer Andy Trapani, writer Adam Simon and editor Tom Elkins, and another with Cornwell, Madsen and Gallner. There also are deleted scenes with optional commentary from Cornwell, as well as trailers, LG Live features (studio Lionsgate’s online BD portal) and four featurettes: Two Dead Boys – The Making of The Haunting in Connecticut; The Fear is Real: Reinvestigating the Haunting; Anatomy of a Haunting; and Memento Mori: The History of Post-Mortem Photography.