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The Hoax in Connecticut

Movie title: The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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In 2002, a 2-hour documentary aired on The Discovery Channel called A Haunting in Connecticut. In it was featured the story of the Snedeker family. It was 1986 when Allen and Carmen Snedeker and their three sons, a daughter, and two nieces moved into their newly rented home at 208 Meriden Ave. in Southington, Connecticut. The documentary was so scary that it caused a stir and soon began to get national attention. The affect of the documentary had been aided by a 1992 novel by author Ray Garton entitled In A Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. It contained the chilling narrative of the family's experiences while living at the house.

The reported experiences are quite bizarre. Blood is seen being mopped onto a floor. A man with blue-grayish eyes rolled back into his head appears to the oldest son. A featureless, black-colored being with no eyes is a regular unwelcome guest. Specters of boys walking around are seen. Voices of men arguing are heard. One of the nieces is nearly smothered in a shower curtain. The family curls up together in fear as doors slam open and closed and strange clawing sounds echo throughout the old funeral parlor-turned-cheap rental property. Paul (“Matt” in the movie), the oldest son, is fighting cancer. The demons target him and he is said to have become an incestuous, raping monster that had to be institutionalized for a time to protect the rest of the family. Once put away, he returns to his normal self and the forces of evil target other family members.

True to form, people who already believe in supernatural phenomenon or else remain naively open to it experience most hauntings. The same can be said of those who, when plagued by ghostly apparitions, seek out exorcisms and mediums, expecting them to rid the property of these nuisances from the netherworld.

Back to the story, investigators are called in. Who are they? They are Ed and Lorraine Warren, the same lying phonies who were shown to have been the hacks behind the Amityville Horror nonsense, which itself was shown to be the result of hype. It was the Warrens who made the decision to call in a Catholic priest who reluctantly agreed to do the exorcism when he felt his shirt being tugged on by a satanic presence.

As is the case with all alleged hauntings, the details of the Snedeker story shift like the lever on your 5-speed pick-up truck. The documentary and the book have their share of differences. Names and events conflict or else are omitted. Was it Teresa who was molested by a demon or Kelly? Did an evil presence drive Allen's truck through a building to try to run him over? Yes says the documentary, no says the movie and the book—they omit it completely. Most damning to the story is that before and after the exorcism, other occupants of the home reported no unexplainable occurrences. The smoking gun is the testimony of Ray Garton. He reported that it was the inability of family members to get their stories straight which led him to abandon further work on the case. That’s the story behind the movie. We now move on to the movie itself.

The Haunting in Connecticut (not “a”) builds onto the already shaky foundation of the afore-described Southington Funeral Home legend, a story that succeeded at sending reverberating chills down my spine when it was in documentary form. But that was the legend, not the movie. Thanks to special effects, the movie begins hellishly scary, but gradually fades into a drawn-out theatrical melodrama. Eerie music and well-incorporated sound effects intensify horrific visuals of ghosts and creepy paranormal activity that focuses on subverting (at first) one Matt Campbell (Kyle Gallner) and gradually begins to terrorize the remainder of the family.

The drama is there from the start, but not enough to achieve critical mass. It soon gives way to a ridiculously bizarre and strained tale about séances and what happens when mere mortals play with powers they can’t control. And it’s farfetched, all of it. Ghostly encounters – if they happen at all – don’t happen like this, and that realization lessens the affect of the movie. Once you discover the basics of the plot, the cat is out of the bag and the fear factor drops off. At this point, you just watch because you want to see a resolution…kind of.

The biggest fault with The Haunting in Connecticut is that the movie nearly completely adulterates the original Snedeker story. Had they stayed with the bone-chillingly scary documentary material and expounded on it, this could have been a memorable experience. The film’s prostituting itself out to an undiscerning public that wants nothing more than an embellished ghost story with clichéd stigmatic body-writing and Amityville rip-offs should be labeled pitiable. It just goes to reinforce the lesson that the words “based on a true story” have very little meaning in Hollywood.

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: After a family is forced to relocate for their son's health, they begin experiencing supernatural behavior in their new home, which turns out to be a former mortuary.
Director: Peter Cornwell
Starring: Virginia Madsen “Sara Campbell,” Kyle Gallner “Matt Campbell,” Elias Koteas “Reverend Popescu,” Amanda Crew “Wendy,” Martin Donovan “Peter Campbell,” Sophi Knight “Mary Campbell,” Ty Wood “Billy Campbell,” Erik J. Berg “Jonah,” John Bluethner “Ramsey Aickman”
Genre: Horror / Thriller

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