The Haunting in Connecticut, a new supernatural thriller starring Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan, won’t win any points in the originality department. Based on an allegedly true story of a family’s encounters with the supernatural, it breathes the same air as The Amityville Horror, The Town that Dreaded Sundown, Death Tunnel or any movie involving evil spirits, a haunted house, an old aboriginal cemetery or former insane asylum. Original it ain’t, but originality has never been the most important part of a haunted house tale.
The film takes its story from the much documented life experience of Carmen Snedeker and her family who were tormented by evil forces after moving into a reconverted funeral home in Southington, Connecticut. “It has a bit of history,” says the landlord as he shows Snedeker’s movie counterpart Virginia Madsen around the old, broken down Victorian home. History or not the family decides to take the place. After all it is as dad says, “just a house, [made of] bricks and nails and wood.” He didn’t know it at the time, but he should have added undead beasties to that list.
The Haunting in Connecticut is part of a new genre of fright film— mainstream Christian horror. Films like this one and The Exorcism of Emily Rose can be intense, but the thrills and chills skew more toward the PG-13 end of the scale.
Haunting is the very definition of Christian horror. It is a scary film, with disturbing images—anyone with a fear of eyelid trauma beware!—and enough shocks to keep the casual horror fan interested. It also comes complete with all the conventions of a traditional haunted house film. There is the prerequisite long set of stairs with the burned out hall light leading down to a darkened basement; the usual weird nooks and crannies of the spooky old place, the mysterious locked door, strange shadows, unexplained winds that make candles flicker and even an ectoplasm spewing ghost.
What sets this apart from the typical chiller is the emphasis is on family values and the power of prayer. Also stressed is the family’s ability to triumph over adversity, both natural—the husband’s drinking problem—and supernatural—evil demons.
It doesn’t make for as woozy a combination as you might imagine. The mix of religious ideas and horror has been with us since humans first defined the idea of evil and Christian symbols have figured in horror stories from Dracula to The Omen and beyond. What the new brand of Christian horror does is bring God back into the mix. In The Haunting in Connecticut characters pray and have conversations with God, treating their spirituality as part of their everyday lives.
The Haunting in Connecticut won’t do much for hardcore horror fans, it’s likely a bit too old fashioned and a bit too tame for gore aficionados, but it does create a good atmosphere of dread and raise the odd hair on the back of your neck.