Because we’re just that damned dedicated to this website, we went out and saw The Haunting in Connecticut on Friday night. As such, we are now able to answer to important questions:
– How close is it to the “actual” story?
– Was the movie actually any good?
Let’s take the second question first — all three of us really enjoyed the movie. Rated PG-13 means that it doesn’t have a lot blood, gore or violence, yet it still manages to supply a full complement of scares and starts. It is high on the creepy factor, creating a tension-filled atmosphere to keep you on edge waiting for the next “GOTCHA!” (as opposed to being “torture porn,” which seems to be increasingly popular). The look of the movie, as well as the acting and directing, were all solid, especially the principles: Virgina Madsen as Sara Campbell, Kyle Gallner at Matt Campbell and Elias Koteas as Rev. Popescu. If you care about critics’ reviews (and with horror films, most people don’t), they have been mixed.
My take based from the people sitting around us and the general buzz from the theater is that most seemed to enjoy it for what it is — a decent horror flick. I got extra amusement from the young couple next to me — the girl pretty much spent the entire movie in her boyfriend’s lap, whimpering and covering her eyes; at one tense point in the film, his cell phone (which must’ve been set to vibrate) went off, causing her to jump out of his lap and shriek. All good scary fun, and worth the price of admission.
Now on to the big question: How “true” was the film, and did it follow the original documentary or the published events of the case?
Well, the original event happened in Connecticut and the movie has the word “Connecticut” in the title — that’s about as close as it gets.
Okay, that’s not entirely right — the movie starts out with the same basic premise: the family of a boy who is being treated for cancer moves to Connecticut to be closer to his medical treatments, choosing to rent a house that was formerly used as a funeral home, and possibly because of the drugs, the boy starts seeing and experiencing unusual things . . .
SPOILER ALERT: If you plan on seeing the movie, skip the next paragraph as I am going to mention some key plot points and scenes from the movie and how they differed from the “true” story.
After the main set up, the story then goes in a completely different direction than what is alleged to have happened. In the movie, there is no mention of the Warrens (or similar characters) and there is no exorcism. In real life, there is absolutely no evil back history about an protoplasmic-spewing medium or a necromantic funeral directory who was ritualistically desecrating bodies by stealing their eyelids and then boarding up the corpses in the walls of the house. (No one would notice the monstrous stench of decaying bodies?!) In real life, no one awoke to find themselves with cryptic symbols carved into their flesh. Also, in reality the house was never wrecked or burned to the ground to release the trapped spirits of the dead — a Hollywood-fabricated ending if there ever was one.
Regardless of the myriad ways it was not “true,” the movie has done well out of the gate at the box office, finishing second in its opening weekend to Monster vs. Aliens (which I also saw this weekend with my kids and really enjoyed as it was better than your standard kiddie fare, with lots of nods to classic sci-fi and horror films, from The Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman to E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind).
Overall, as I said earlier, we enjoyed The Haunting in Connecticut from the point of being a simple horror film. If you go, just remember the movie is “based on” the true story, which means it’s not “an actual re-telling of events,” and thus gives the movie’s creators freedom to take it in any direction they deem scariest (which they liberally do). If you’re looking to be entertained, you’ll be good with it; if you’re looking for the truth, well, like they say, it’s still out there.