Pros: Creepy, spooky, and girlish shriek producing. Good acting.
Cons: Wears on the nerves.
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) Directed by Peter Cornwell. "Based Upon True Events."
"As I was going up the stair / I met a man who wasn't there. / He wasn't there again today / I wish, I wish he'd go away" Hughes Mearns.
Matt Campbell (Kyle Gallner) was a teen with a lot. He has a loving Mom, Sara (Virginia Madsen), a hard working Dad, Peter (Martin Donovan) neat, if annoying younger siblings, Billy (Ty Wood) and Mary (Sophie Knight) and a cute cousin/Au Pair Wendy (Amanda Crew). He also has cancer.
He is part of an experimental test group trying a radical new treatment. The radiation leaves him very weak, nauseous, and fragile. The commute from their small town to Southington is very hard on him after the treatments.
So his mom and dad discuss renting a house closer to the hospital; of course money, tight before, is prohibitive. But Sara finds a place that is almost perfect...there is just one catch...it was once a funeral home. So no go...
Until she is driving home, and Matt is violently ill, again. She makes an executive decision and doubles back, and Matt gets a fairly quite night of rest, on of the first in a while.
Well, it is a hardship, but the family adjusts. Matt chooses to have his bed room in the basement; he's a teen boy, and it has a private bath, so he can be sick without disturbing the rest of the family. His room has a wall of windows to another area where they can't go; the door is stuck, and the glass so dirty it might as well be frosted.
However, all is not well. Matt sees things; shapes behind the glass. He is having nightmares. And he sees his mother mopping his floor with blood. The doctor warned them to report any and all hallucinations to them; they might invalidate his participation in the trial.
Matt knows if he reports the hallucinations, he could be dropped from the program, and that is pretty much the same thing as a death sentence. So he has a vested interest in keeping these things to himself.
However, he is not the only one being unsettled. Sara finds a few artifacts; one is a collection of pictures from the turn of the century; each shows family sitting together, one of whose eyes are closed. It takes a moment, but Sara realizes that these are family portraits with the dead.
As they live in the house, the toll on Matt only grows; he is weaker; he can't sleep for the nightmares; he is constantly on edge from the visions, and he can't tell anyone for fear of being kicked out of the program. But someone understands. Reverend Popescu, (Elias Koteas) recognizes the signs; Matt and he are both cancer patients, both stand in the valley of the Shadow of Death. And both are closer to the world of the dead. Matt and his family begin to realize that what he is seeing is not drug induced hallucinations, or visions from the tumors getting in his brain, but ghosts.
Wendy and Matt research the history and discover the house was once a funeral home. Further, the owner, Ramsey Aickman (John Bluethner) held séances in his home, aided by his assistant, Jonah (Erik J. Berg) a medium.
Worse, there is evidence, in visions and hidden in the house, that Aickman was a whack job who desecrated the bodies in his care trying to trap their souls, to use them as batteries to strengthen Jonah's powers. Witch script incantations carved into their skin, and further desecrations...
As with most hauntings, it starts slow, and builds. And here is the family, trapped by circumstance, pinned to the town by Matt's illness, without options of moving from finances, trying to hang on just a little bit longer....
This movie understands something about scaring you. They very effectively use what I call the eye spy method. That is where someone opens a door with a mirror on it, and you see something that they don't lurking behind them. And the mood works; the house looks like it was not altered since the funeral home moved out. Certainly the embalming room is suspiciously intact...
(Personally, I think they missed a golden opportunity here; those are museum pieces, and probably highly sought after by creepy collectors. They could have asked permission to clean the place out, and then sold the stuff for the money to stay there.)
And benign things also serve to creep us out; the portraits of a boy sitting with his dead brother's head on his shoulder, the woman on the bed with her dead husband. These were very normal things in Victorian times; yet today the thought is...disturbing.
However, there is a flaw in their timing; they surprise us constantly. Every reflection has a hidden image; every distant hallway has a figure crossing it. It wears thin.
That said, the overall effect of the movie achieves its goal; it scares the poo right out of us. It just could have done it a little more efficiently.
Small Spoiler Alert:
There is one element in the movie that is not real; (let's not discuss the whole issue of ghosts and ectoplasmic projection at this point.) they said the house burned down and was rebuilt. This is not true. The house never burned, and is in point of fact inhabited to this day. The current residents have never reported any disturbances.