Apr 8, 2009

The Haunting In Connecticut [15]

Dir: Peter Cornwell
If you’ve been to see more than a handful of horror films over the last five years then, chances are you’ve seen at least one bad haunted house or possession based movie. If you’ve managed to miss them all though, fear not, The Haunting In Connecticut, a digest of all the worst moments from all the worst recent horror movies, is here to save you the effort.

The story is so familiar that it’s almost funny. Family with sick kid moves into creepy old rental house, bad shit starts happening. That’s IT, there’s no unique twist, no interesting moment to throw you for a loop, it’s just a plod through all the most familiar genre beats one by predictable one. It’s so predictable, in fact, that as I watched this sorry excuse for a horror film I was able to write it in my head, staying several minutes ahead of the movie at every turn. Every time you suspect there will be a boo scare, there it is (generally it’s exactly the shot you’ll expect it to be), every plot machination turns exactly as you imagine it will, every character’s fate is exactly what you’ll guess it to be. It really is staggering that people could be allowed to put this little effort into a reasonably high budget film destined for a major release.

The technical side of things is equally depressing. The film is set in 1987, not that you’d ever know it. Yes there’s the odd prop to tip you off (ooh, a tube TV), but otherwise this film could have been set tomorrow. The haircuts, clothes, even the feeling of the stock, just screams 2009. The visuals are completely stock, competently executed in that the boom doesn’t intrude and the special effects aren’t awful, but unspeakably boring and shot with all the invention and panache of a bad student film. The score is irritating in the extreme. The strings that build up to a scary moment are lifted directly from Mark Snow’s scores for The X Files (and, of course, clue you in to every single coming scare) and after every scare you get the same sting, which starts to feel like the director leaning over and saying “that was scary, wasn’t that scary, aren’t I clever?”

The acting isn’t quite terrible, which is the best thing I can say about this movie. Virginia Madsen and Kyle Gallner work particularly hard, even though there’s less than nothing to hang on to. The awful script provides no motivation for anything and does character development in such sledgehammer blows that a character’s (recovering) alcoholism is mentioned once, then within 15 minutes he’s drunk, and 15 minutes later he’s reformed again. Every single line is designed to drag the plot, kicking and screaming, to the finish line. There’s nothing here to engage with, nothing to feel and, as I’ve observed many times, if you don’t care you won’t be scared. There are also chasmic gaps in the film’s logic (for example, does nobody have the amazing power of smell?), but that, compared to the utter tedium unfolding on the screen, seems a small problem.

I know a critic should never use this word, but I’m going to. Boring. From its title on down The Haunting In Connecticut (how about Don’t Go in the Basement or Eyelids?) is unspeakably boring. A surprise and scare free exercise in mind pulverising tedium that should never have been let near a camera, let alone a cinema.

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