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Reviewed by: Zombie Boy

Directed by: Peter Cornwell

Virginia Madsen
Kyle Gallner
Elias Koteas

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What's it about
The Campbell family moves into a new house to be closer to the hospital where their sick son gets his treatment, and encounter a deadly haunting presence.
Is it good movie?
The Campbell family are good people, trying to lead decent lives. Dad is a recovering alcoholic, and they even took in their two nieces whose own home had broken. As if matters are not complicated enough for them by their son’s, Matt's, cancer, the commute to the hospital where he is getting treatment in a special trial is a long drive, which does not help Matt’s convalescence any. So they decide to get a second rent in the fictional town of Goatswood, CT, and wouldn’t you know it, the damned place is haunted as hell. With their luck, they really should have seen it coming. Matt seems to be the focus of the otherworldly happenings, and begins to unravel as the rest of the house thinks he is going crazy. With the help of a fellow chemo patient, who happens to be a reverend, Matt attempts to rid his house and his life of these annoying specters.

The unrated edition really helps the movie, the theatrical cut of which is a little uneven and milquetoast, pop. It opens with a series of actual funeral photos, intercut with filmed scenes of a body being embalmed and disfigured, much bloodier and more graphic in this version. This should help the gorehounds get over the hump of the next few scenes, where they actually *gasp* build characters. We get to see the family in their normal setting, before they move, and we get to see them struggle as they watch Matt slowly die. And when the happenings start really happening, there are some honestly gruesome moments. The place used to be a funeral home, and the proprietor defiled the bodies to enhance the séances h held after hours, and led by his pet psychic, Jonah. The corpses we see are frightening entities, and the ambiguous Jonah sometimes appears normal and sometimes horribly burned, and you won’t know til the end just what he wants from Matt.

From a technical standpoint, everything is done really well. First-time director Peter Cornwell handles the set properly, and got lots of coverage with the small amount of time he had. Being a horror fan, he pushed for lots of the nice squishy bits that the unrated version restores. The cinematography and the special effects are both understated and well done, going hand in hand to create a warm yet eerie feel. The house itself is a character in the story, something the cast and crew were cognizant of portraying. You can follow the geography of the floor plan at all times. All of the acting is top-notch. You expect solid work from Virginia Madsen, Martin Donovan, and Elias Koteas, so the real treat was Kyle Gallner as Matt and Amanda Crew as cousin Wendy. They both did their jobs quite well and were very convincing. The acting was so good it helps you get over the small bumps in the road of a sometimes muddled film.

The only negative of the film is that said muddleness, and that it takes a long time telling you what is happening. And when it does, there is just never quite enough emotional connection, never the danger that you need to care about what happens to the characters. It doesn’t matter how well you set them up unless you make us believe they are in real, physical danger. Too much effort was expended in getting the haunting off the ground, and not enough in being mean to the characters, if you know what I mean. Also, I should take this time to mention that very little of this movie has anything to do with the actual case, which took place in Southington, a town just a few exits down I-84 from where I live. An entirely fictional narrative is hung upon a thin skeleton of professed alleged events. Kubrick’s The Shining resembles King’s source novel more than this movie reflects the original events.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen, 2.35:1

Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional English and Spanish subtitles.
The Extras
Commentaries: Located in the setup menu, there are two chat tracks: one with director Peter Cornwell, producer Andrew Trapani, co-writer Adam Simon, and editor Tom Elkins, and the other with Cornwell and stars Madsen and Gallner. They are both very entertaining, the former being more nuts and bolts with the latter being a more familiar, stories from the set kind of thing.

Two Dead Boys: The Making of The Haunting in Connecticut: This 14-minute quickie is mainly a collection of interviews, but there is some really interesting footage of the special effects team placing the writing all over the dead bodies, and includes an eye-opening shot of the anatomically-correct “hero” corpse. A little something for the ladies.

The Fear is Real: Investigating the Haunting: this is an interview with a few of the Snedeker’s, the actual people from the source incident in Southington. Forgive the editorializing, but what a bunch of wingnuts. Aside from the highly suspicious and frankly blasé stories they tell, the pictures of them from that time period show that the casting agents who worked on the movie were very, very nice to them.

Anatomy of a Haunting: This is two independent interviews, one with parapsychologist Barry Taff and one with psychic/researcher Jason Rourke, intercut with each other. They basically give their opinions and experiences with hauntings, nominally in reference to the case at hand. Taff is a fellow wingnut, but Rourke actually comes across somewhat skeptical.

Memento Mori: The History of Post-Mortem Photography: This is by far my favorite special feature on this disc. It is an interview with Stanley B. Burns, MD, the author of Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America, and it is insanely interesting. Fans of Wisconsin Death Trip will find no surprises in the subject matter. Basically, in the 1800’s for most people the only time they had their pictures taken was after they died. Funeral were held in the home, hence the term parlor, and the backlash term living room. See? Awesomely interesting.

Deleted Scenes: This is a collection of scenes that were mainly cut for pacing reasons. There are no subplots, really, except the part where Matt tries to burn the house down, and we get to see mom at her work. All the scenes have optional commentary from Cornwell.

Other than that, there is the theatrical trailer and a selection of trailers for other films available from Lions Gate. Oh, and there is also an additional disc that contains an electronic copy of the film for downloading purposes.
Last Call
Whether or not you feel this film got a raw deal from critics while in the theater (I did…but maybe just because I’m a hometown boy) this unrated version may interest you more (it's close to ten minutes longer). But ultimately, it is a well-intentioned film where everyone involved tried their best and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing. I implore you to ignore the theatrical version and stick with the unrated cut. In addition to being the film the director wants you to see, it has the electronic copy, as well as a bevy of cool special features.
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