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Horrific Inquiry: THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (2009)

Horrific Inquiry: THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (2009)

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Welcome back to the scariest, and at times goriest, column here at Film Inquiry: Horrific Inquiry. Twice a month, I will be tackling all things horror, bringing two films back into the spotlight to terrify and frighten once more. And occasionally looking at those that could have pushed the envelope further. Join us as we dive deep into the heart of horror, but warning, there will be spoilers.

“No, you can’t have him! You can’t have my son!” – The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

We all have our favorite sub-genres within the cinema of horror. While it has become highly marketable over the decades, I find myself generally leaning away from possession and haunting films. Too often, the over-sensationalized aspects overshadow the terror, feeling more fake than terrifying. This does not hold true for all possessions and hauntings, yet more frequently than one would hope. So why choose The Haunting in Connecticut for this month’s horrific venture? Why, Connecticut Day of course.

Connecticut has a rich history in hauntings, with the most renowned paranormal investigators claiming it as their home base. Connecticut is the home of the White Lady, the abandoned Dudley town, Annabelle the doll, and the Warrens – just to name a few. Recently, even Supernatural alumni Jenson Ackles purchased a mansion in CT, one that has its own history of supernatural occurrences. No matter where you go in the state, you are sure to find the lore of a local haunting. So with Connecticut Day, it seemed only appropriate to dive into one of the sensationalized tales from haunting in Connecticut.

Creating a Haunting

Peter Cornwell‘s The Haunting in Connecticut opens on an eerie note, its introductory sequence crafting a documentary fell. The sepia tones give it a vintage feel, its horrific visuals grounding the film in both the paranormal and the terrifying. Many of these visuals will be revisited as the film reveals its secrets, the intrigue strong from its opening moments. Following this sequence the film settles on a car driving through the middle of nowhere, its weary travelers inside each experiencing their own version of pain. Having completed the most recent form of cancer treatment Matt (Kyle Gallner) and his mother Sara (Virginia Madsen) make their way home. The drive has been long, Matt clearly in pain, his mother quietly fighting the grief that lingers waiting to catch her off guard.

Horrific Inquiry: THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (2009)
source: Lionsgate

As viewers discover, Matt is suffering from cancer and his experimental treatment has repeatedly Sara driving them through the night to return home, Matt’s constant side effects making the drive even longer. As Sara and Matt’s Dad Peter (Martin Donovan) debate getting a second place in Connecticut during Matt’s treatment, the first fractures of the relationship between husband and wife begin to show. There is clearly a strain on the family that each member is refusing to fully acknowledge, the fear of losing Matt the central focus in each decision made. And that’s the core of Sara’s decision to rent a home in Connecticut, Matt’s pain too severe one night for her to continue the drive any further.

As the fractures continue to show between Sara and Peter, the house almost immediately begins to take on a life of its own. In a house with “a bit of a history”, reflections of people begin showing up in TVs and bedroom mirrors, shadows take menacing shape and mop water turns to blood before Matt’s eyes. With whispers in the night and objects moving, the house is alive – but only for Matt. It plays into the debunking theories of the story the film is based on, as well as heightening the urgency of Matt’s treatment. Should be discovered that he is having any hallucinations, he will be dropped from the treatment.

But there is not enough here at times, requiring The Haunting in Connecticut to fill itself with loads of exposition. This becomes most heavy-handed as the film works through its research and up to its reveal of what might have been happening at the funeral home and during the seances. As Matt and Wendy dig for the truth, the audience is spoonfed an explanation, the research and reveal of information strewn and edited together almost like a slow-moving montage.

Horrific Inquiry: THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (2009)
source: Lionsgate

Yet, the film is not without its strength. It does retain an eerie, albeit predictable, feeling in the reflections caught on TVs and mirrors, as well as with the silhouetted figures in the shadows. Crafting the sense of someone always watching, the predictability works to give the film the sense that there is someone always there, that at any moment, something could happen. And while it may come in the form of water turning into blood and plates crashing to the floor, it does give a sense of a fully realized haunting.

The Haunting in Connecticut finds much of its strength in its third act, especially as the hauntings break free of their Matt-centric framework. Once the film branches out and begins to affect the rest of the Campbell family, Matt’s present state of mind is no longer in question and the danger is real. The continued utilization of flashbacks does not give the film much of a leg to stand on, but the realization of the true depth of horror in the actions of the past has a full moment of realization that fits the film and its resolution.


I had not watched The Haunting in Connecticut since its release in 2009 – and I was quickly reminded as to why. An entertaining horror at its best, the film refuses from the very beginning to commit to its potential. There are so many underlying themes that remain glanced over but never truly looked at. And as the film refuses to acknowledge the questionable legality of the story it is based on, it becomes as sensationalized as the original story itself. Yes, this is based on a true story, but the question becomes whose?

Horrific Inquiry: THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (2009)
source: Lionsgate

Outside of the world of fiction, the actual haunting remains one plagued with questions and uncertainty. While Ed and Lorraine Warren had claimed the Southington home was riddled with demons, those involved with its documentation had other opinions. The stories of the Snedeker family contradicted one another. Those who have debunked the haunting claimed Ed Warren had asked to sensationalize the story to make it more interesting. Others pointed out that nothing strange had happened within the house prior to the Snedeker family’s arrival – nor after.

The Haunting in Connecticut takes the idea of sensationalizing of a paranormal story to heart as it takes elements of the haunting and loads it with terror. Jump scares and shadows become its central core of horror, the ending plunging audiences into pure fiction. And while sensationalism in horror and cinema is far from new, the film leans too heavily into it removing any essence of authenticity that would have scared audiences alone. It is not just the visuals that scare us, but the idea that something could be true that raises the hair on our necks. It’s what drives the audience to return home, avoiding reflections, jumping at random noises, and reevaluating the dark corners of their homes. It is the idea that something just might be real that is the true horror within the story.


While nowhere near as successful as the Conjuring franchise in popularity or quality, The Haunting in Connecticut proves itself entertaining. By the film’s end, though, I am left wondering what the film could have been if it had picked an angle and stuck with it. It commits to the haunting but there were opportunities to lean into themes that lived just below the surface. The idea of a mother’s love, the grief of potentially losing a child, alcoholism, and the power of letting go each found themselves included in the film’s narrative but never given the focus or breadth to fully become realized. The Haunting in Connecticut remains a predictable vehicle of horror, lost within the masses.

Watch The Haunting in Connecticut


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