Sometimes horror movies are so well made, they can convince you they are really based on fact and not fiction. Such is the case with “The Haunting in Connecticut”, a film based on supposed real life events that happened to the Snedeker family in the 1980’s.
The movie opens with the Campbell family mother and her son on a trip to the Yale New Haven Hospital (In the movie, the hospital is called St. Michael’s Hospital) from upstate New York. The drive is quite long, but that is where the son, Matt is receiving treatment for cancer. The cancer he has is causing him to throw up, causing his mother to stop the car quite a few times during the trip. Matt’s parents finally decide to move closer to the hospital in Goatswood (a fictional name for Southington) which is a half hour’s drive to the hospital. Right from the start of the movie, Connecticut natives like myself acknowledge there is no such town called Goatswood, thereby blowing the entire “Based on a true story” statement at the start of the movie. Matt’s mother Sara goes in search of a home and when she does find one, she tells the realtor that it is practically begging her to buy it. Unbeknownst to Sara, though, the house is a former funeral home with a dark past. Sara buys the house, tells her husband, and before the rest of the family moves in. Sara and Matt spend a few nights together. Matt unwisely chooses the basement for his bedroom, a cellar which also houses the embalming room right next to his bed. Once the entire family moves in, including his father Peter, younger siblings Mary and Billy, and a relative, Wendy, whose parents are undergoing a divorce.
Things start to unravel for the family, with Matt being the only one at first to be seeing shady characters walk in and around him. One night when his family asks him to say grace, as he touches hands with his family members, he starts to hallucinate: he sees himself taking part in a seance that involves the former funeral house owner, his dark haired son, and several other people who are trying to contact the dead. It is not until Matt and Wendy have to rescue the younger children from danger in the house when they discover a box of information tucked away in a cubby hole in the attic, along with photos. Upon opening the box, Matt finds a smaller box full of bizarre shaped pieces of skin, later to discover from the reverend that they are the eyelids of dead people that were used for necromantic purposes by the funeral home owner. Such a finding might strike the viewer as unusual, but it may be kept in mind that persons in the funeral business possibly have an interest in contact with the other side.
The one figure from the other side that keeps appearing to Matt is the funeral home owner’s son, who was burned to death. His corpse was never buried properly thus his spirit kept lingering in the house. Combined with a tight story that combines the old cemetery graves dug up to make room for Route 10 to be built, to engravings of incantations upon the bodies of people who were part of the necromancy cult, and of course ectoplasm, “The Haunting In Connecticut” is actually a watchable horror film with not as much blood and guts, but good cinematography and camera angles, especially when Matt blacked out due to the hallucinogens his doctors were prescribing him. Back in the 1980’s, treatment for cancer was not as sophisticated as it is now. Drugs with hallucinogenic side effects were used, which would explain Matt’s visions. It is not until halfway through the movie that the rest of his family start to see mysterious bodies walking through their home.
Virginia Madsen plays Sara, the devoted mother to Kyle Gallner, her eldest son. The rest of the family tends to fade in the background, although her husband is not without his problems, either, for he is an alcoholic. Martin Donovan is Matt’s father, although Amanda Crew is the lovely relative Wendy in the movie.
The viewer may find it curious to know the house where the real family lived, never had a fire while the Snedekers/Campbells lived there. In the movie, Matt throws bottles of embalming fluid on top of the bodies he released from the walls and sets fire to them. Neither did the succeeding families who lived in the funeral home ever experience any hauntings. Some viewers will find themselves asking just how real the events are, the mysterious burned or engraved figures walking through the house, intimidating Matt. This is not to say that people not on hallucinogens will not see such things, but to the person on the drugs, such visions may seem real even though they are not. Hollywood took a lot of creative license here, but at least it was well made. Those who like haunted house stories will appreciate this movie.