Virginia Madsen (looking like a very blonde Gillian Anderson) plays the lead mother who very, very fiercely loves her Son With Cancer. She also has a son without cancer, a husband played by the permanently (sexily) bedraggled Martin Donovan, and there's a niece or half-sister or similarly related 20something girl whose relationship isn't properly explained, with her daughter as well....it doesn't matter, they all serve a plot purpose eventually -- including a library montage! Only Cancer Boy sees unpleasant things at first, leading him to consider if he's just suffering visual hallucinations from the drug trial he's on, but we know the truth because we've seen the preview -- the house is really haunted, its really based on a "true story".
Don't get me wrong, I have a skeptic streak, but I do watch paranormal movies because I want to believe (to bring up X-Files again), and enjoy looking carefully for the line of rational explanations and supernatural experience -- just as I examined the expressions on Virginia Madsen's face to search for evidence of her botox lovin' (you can tell she's had work, but it is what one would call 'tastefully done', should one be inclined to refer to plastic surgery in that manner). The movie's insistence on ripped-from-reality annoys me as much as its cannibalizing all the classics -- Poltergeist, Amytiville Horror, The Shining -- but it does bring an element of storytelling missing in most contemporary horror movies: the panic of the unknown, the buildup of fear solely from suspense of disorientating and confusion in the dark. Rather than horrific acts of torture on the living, there are merely disturbing acts of desecrating dead bodies, which leads to flickering lights and shadows and noises -- its PG-13 after all, so a kinder, gentler scare. The Haunting in Connecticut is far away from the Saw film series, and actually if this movie had been made in 1987, and not just taking place in that year, and you caught it randomly on cable one night (does Lifetime at least have after hours programming??), it is thoroughly enjoyable as a good bad movie.
-- A. RAYMOND JOHNSON
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