#5: The Haunting in Connecticut
I don't want to pretend that this is great cinema (I didn't really pretend that with Phantasm, either). But to get to the truly extraordinary, we can't just ignore the ordinary. Because ordinary, basic, popular film is what provides the foundation for really bizarre and life altering work to be made. There's nothing new here. It's not the best thing you'll see this week. But it's got a solid creep factor going, and a concept that makes me buy in. Plus - eyelashes. Eyelashes in a box.
The Haunting in Connecticut
"You don't ever want to tell them you can see things"
I actually saw this one way before I moved to Connecticut myself. It was 2009, we were graduating college, and some friends and I rented this from the local video store (!) because it had just come out and some people somebody knew had said that maybe, probably, perhaps it was scary. I held my breath because I had just spent the last two semesters watching every horror movie the U of I library had in its film department, and Cannibal Holocaust was still deep enough in my system to know that nothing being made today out Los Angeles way was really all that scary (I am not recommending Cannibal Holocaust, but that's a story for another day).
Let this be a lesson to you - even mediocre scares can get you when the group of people you're with wants to be scared. And this is a "things pop out at you" sort of horror movie, so with the appropriate atmosphere, you'll jump. But that's not really the part of this one that keeps me interested.
Matt has cancer. Late stage, inoperable cancer, that's got his family moving to Connecticut so he can participate in a medical trial. The first part of this film is spent watching Matt suffer the after effects of brutal chemo-type treatments, having body aches, terrible nausea, and radiation burns that his mother can't seem to stop accidentally touching. This is scary to me.
I find it really plausible that this kid would be seeing things. I like that we're not sure if the house is really haunted, or Matt is just hallucinating a horribly charred man hanging out in corners, and his mother casually mopping blood around the basement floor.
There are cheesy CGI effects and a flashy editing style that's a signature of what I'm calling New Millennium horror. But don't let that bother you. Focus on the idea that Matt is dying, he's seeing walls turn into maggot-infested flesh, and the old crematorium/funeral parlor in the basement is making him act "a little funny." Mean, in fact. This is really just a good performance from Gallner.
So, what am I getting at, asking you to watch this one? Haunted House films have been around forever and a day. The movie with the "Based on a True Story" tag at the starting credits, just as long. This is a Hollywood tradition that's not going away, and we are still recycling the trope. Even in the most basic version, the notion that you could be living in a house that "used to be" something else, is a frightening one. This movie works. It has its moments, we like to say. Give it a chance, see what you think.
Bodies. Bodies stacked on bodies stacked on bodies. For spoilage sake, I'll say no more. I don't think it's all that surprising, but it's a real nice shot. Mise-en-Scene is alive and well.
If You Like it, Watch:
Burnt Offerings - I LOVE Karen Black. I LOVE Oliver Reed. I watched this one on Netflix at 3 a.m. once and I nearly peed myself in the last scene. It's a slow build, but it's a winner.
The Shining (because, DUH).