The Haunting in Connecticut

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The definite article in the title of “The Haunting in Connecticut” is repeated in the onscreen assertion that it’s “based on the true story.” You know — THE true story. Surely you’ve heard THE story about how some people moved into a large old isolated house and began experiencing supernatural phenomena, particularly in the form of things suddenly appearing in mirrors and messing with the lights! You know, THAT story. It’s been told a million times!

And having already heard it, you won’t find much new in this mundane but atmospheric thriller starring Virginia Madsen as a woman whose son Matt (Kyle Gallner), dying of cancer, starts to see ghosts after the family moves into a house that — surprise, surprise — used to be a funeral parlor and the site of some nefarious deeds. Is Matt’s medication causing him to hallucinate? Or is there really something sinister afoot? Do you even need to ask?

The director, first-timer Peter Cornwell, working from a screenplay by Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe, plays up the “based on the true story” aspect at the very beginning and very end — and nowhere else — by having Madsen’s character sit at a table and introduce her story while being interviewed by a documentary filmmaker. Amusingly, she’s sitting in front of a very bright window, and the backlighting makes her appear almost in silhouette — an arrangement no actual documentary filmmaker would allow. It’s enough to make you think Cornwell included this brief scene for the sole purpose of reminding us that it’s “based on the true story” and didn’t think very hard about it beyond that.

(By the way, everyone knows what “based on the true story” means, right? It means there really was a family who really did claim their house was haunted, and not that anything in the film ACTUALLY occurred.)

“Haunting in Connecticut” offers a few creepy touches (like a box of eyelids) and some jump scares. That doesn’t make it good; it just makes it better than the lousy horror films that don’t offer anything. On the whole, it’s a generic, forgettable film, part “Amityville” and part “Exorcist” (Elias Koteas shows up as the obligatory priest), and hardly worth the time it takes to watch it.

C (1 hr., 42 min.; PG-13, a little mild profanity, some disturbing images and intense scenes.)

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