FEBRUARY 2, 2013
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)
What do you think is a bigger bummer to the people who worked hard on The Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts Of Georgia: the fact that Lionsgate is dumping it into out of the way theaters (alongside a VOD release), or that they saddled it with the most idiotic title this side of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer? I honestly can't decide if I'd rather be ridiculed for a dumb moniker or banished to a place that no one could find it. Indeed, I was rather shocked that there were about 7 or 8 other people in the theater (not including the guy who only watched the trailers and left, but I AM including the two girls who came in 5 minutes into the film and had to be sshed by yours truly 90 seconds later), I was almost sure I'd have a private screening.
I do know this: it didn't deserve either treatment (the original title, of course, was The Haunting In Georgia), as it's not that bad of a flick at all. I don't know if it was worth the 57 miles I drove for the privilege of seeing it theatrically, but it held my attention, didn't go overboard with CGI, and put the lovely Abigail Spencer front and center for most of its runtime, and often in long sleeves so I wouldn't be distracted by how damn thin she is. Eat a sandwich, girl!
And it certainly improved on the TV version of the story (it's based on a true story - they even show a picture of the real family at the end), though it was much changed from what I recall of it. While Mr. Gordy was retained (and, as I predicted, expanded - he disappeared at the halfway point of the TV version but sticks around until the last scene here), everything about the house being on a fault line and thus being a magnet for paranormal visions and such was dropped. I'm slightly disappointed about that; it's an intriguing idea and could have benefited from the higher budget/production value that the movie offered, but I also like what they replaced with, so it evens out.
This time around, mom Lisa (Spencer) and her sister Joyce (Katee Sackhoff, in her 2nd unrelated/dumped sequel to a hit movie after White Noise 2) are both blessed/cursed with these sort of "sensations", and now Spencer's daughter is showing signs of it as well. Spencer takes Klonopin to keep her visions at bay, but Sackhoff basically embraces them and is encouraging the young girl to do the same. And even more interesting - the non-psychic husband Andy (Chad Michael Murray, aka the world's biggest dummy for ruining his marriage to the goddess Sophia Bush by hooking up with Paris goddamn Hilton) isn't skeptical at all about their abilities. When Joyce comes to live with them, Andy rolls his eyes and expresses his displeasure, but not because she's the crazy psychic sister-in-law, but because she's a freeloader who can't hold down a job or steady boyfriend. And when things start going crazy with the ghosts, he actually gets upset at his wife for trying to ignore it when her abilities could be helping them. Having seen so many movies where a ghost could be slapping a guy in his face and he'd still be like "There's no such thing as ghosts!", it's really quite refreshing to see one abandon all that sort of stuff, and it helps make the family more endearing as well. I LIKED these folks, as opposed to just tolerating them because they were the main characters. This is about the only thing that connects it to its namesake, as that movie had a better than average family unit to get us through the weaker spots. I figured there might be a shoutout to the other film via a newspaper or something (or maybe Joyce would have heard about them, being that she's into the ghost-y stuff), but there is zero connection whatsoever, making the title change even dumber than it looks.
They also added a slavery element that I don't recall being part of the story (though the real case is "unsolved", so the movie had no choice but to make stuff up lest the film be a vague waste of time). Seems back in the 19th century, the house was owned by a "stationmaster" for the underground railroad, and he would help hide folks who were waiting to be transported to the next stop. The main drive for the film is figuring out who the ghosts are, what they want, and who the villain really was in the frequent sepia-drenched flashback scenes. The movie is set in 1993, so there's no internet to consult to explain everything - ghostly visions are the order of the day! Speaking of the setting, it's severely underplayed; the family has a junky square TV and no one owns a cell phone, but otherwise nothing calls attention to itself - honestly I forgot it was even a "period" piece until the on-screen dates would remind me. Even those things I mentioned hardly count - they're kind of poor, so it wouldn't be likely for them to own an HDTV, and even if they had cells they wouldn't work since they're in the middle of nowhere, Georgia (but filmed in Louisiana, of course - it may take place in 1993 but it was shot in the past couple years, so by law it had to be shot alongside 596 other lower budgeted films).
Just one issue: it's not scary in the slightest. Maybe because I knew the original story and thus also knew that (SPOILER) none of them would die, I never really felt that any of them were in real danger (though there's a nice bit involving Joyce and a sewing needle that could have gone either way). First time director Tom Elkins (an editor whose resume reads like a list of modern horror's most bungled releases: his last few editing gigs include The New Daughter, The Apparition, and (again!) White Noise 2) admirably avoids fake scares - not a single mirror based "husband/sister/whoever is standing behind you" gag! - but doesn't quite pull off any "real" ones either. There are a couple of Insidious style "Hey did you see the ghost back there that the characters didn't?" moments and such, but it's not until the burlap sack-masked villain shows up in the final reel that there's any real sense of menace. I liked the puzzle piece approach to the backstory (there's some great early foreshadowing involving an animal trap), and again found the characters to be a step above the norm, but those seeking to get jolted and creeped out should seek other options.
In short: it's fine. Yeah, I wish I could have just gone to the closest AMC to see it rather than the one over an hour away, but as a man of principle I have no regrets. See, I'm sure the VOD option will be more attractive to whatever audience it will get, but as someone who finds this new practice to be largely detestable, I never even considered it. Basically, I knew I was going to see the movie either way, so I chose to support my preferred venue (the cinema), rather than contribute to something that I think is hurtful to the theatrical experience. Thus, if I could blow 2+ hrs "commuting" to the theater and still enjoy it, it should be worth whatever a VOD rental is and your precious "click of a button" ease.
What say you?