A Haunting in Connecticut: TV on the big screen

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I love ghost stories. Cable television has been a haven for me with all its paranormal programs. My favorite kinds are the ones that are based on true stories. It's how I was first exposed to a family's plight of living in a haunted house while one of the children was battling cancer. The Discovery Channel first brought this story to the screen in 2002 in its "A Haunting" series. It was called " " and it was chilling.

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I've seen the show several times since then so I was intrigued when I heard a big screen version was coming out. The movie "The Haunting in Connecticut" is remarkably different from the TV version. Though the wires have been burning with debate over how much of the story is true, I think it's safe to say that the Hollywood version is only loosely based on the truth. It simply oozes creepiness!

Basically, the plot involves a family with the oldest son Matt (Kyle Gallner) literally dying of cancer. He is involved in an extreme experimental treatment and as you can imagine is suffering immensely. It is a financial and physical drain on the family, as the hospital where he goes for treatment is in another town. The family decides to look for temporary housing closer to the hospital. But when the mom (Virginia Madsen) finds the perfect house, the landlord confesses it has a past and mom passes on her great discovery. That is until her son whimpers and moans in pain all the way home from treatment one dark and stormy night. She makes an executive decision and rents the home after all that very night, deciding to keep the secret to herself. Or so she thinks. Because from the very first night, Matt starts to experience all kinds of weirdness.

The movie is steeped in atmosphere. Excellently shot, the mood is dark, disturbing. A general feeling of uneasiness will haunt you as you sit waiting for the unknown to strike. And when the scares come, they are not of the cheap, loud phone ring, cat jumping out at you variety. No the scares are real. Some sudden. Some grow along with your anxiety. And the execution of the back story tackles mediumship in a way that has not been seen on the big screen before, with chilling results.

Overall the cast is very good, though I did find the biggest star in the movie to have an uneven performance. Virginia Madsen was alternately sympathetic and stiff. But Martin Donavan as Matt's dad was outstanding as was Elias Koteas as a Reverend who comes to Matt's rescue. But without question Kyle Gallner as dying son Matt is griping in his portrayal of a boy struggling to live, while straddling the worlds of the living and the dead.

My only complaint with this movie is the over the top Hollywood ending. Up until the last 10 minutes or so, I was thinking this movie would become a new horror classic. Maybe it's me but I could just hear some studio exec telling them to amp up the horror. It didn't need to do that to keep me on the edge of my seat!

The Haunting in Connecticut manifests 3 &1/2 Red Vines for being very scary

LADIES ROOM LOWDOWN: I saw this movie with a group of college kids and you know what wise guys they can be. Well the theatre was ominously quiet and tense. Occasional gut felt screams came out and got the whole audience giggling with nervous laughter. But when a man screamed we all lost it! Never was a group experience more fun!