3 StarsThe Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghost of Georgia goes down as an early strong contender for worst title of the year. Shamelessly associating itself with the modest hit from 2009, this follow-up or ‘sister film’ (as the marketing team over at Lionsgate spins it) bares no relation to the original. In an attempt to cash in on the brand popularity the producers may have actually done this low-key scarer a disservice. Standing leagues above comparable sequels The Blair Witch Project 2, White Noise: The Light and numerous others, The Haunting in Connecticut 2 is an atmospheric tale steeped in southern mythology and references to ghosts from the slave era.
Buyer’s remorse doesn’t begin to describe the feelings of the Wyrick family who have sunk their life savings into a gothic southern starter home located in the Georgia wilderness, only to discover the house’s hidden problems. We’re not talking broken floorboards and weak water pressure, but piano’s playing in the middle of the night and the deceased former occupants communicating with children. Andy Wyrick (Chad Michael Murray) is a hardworking corrections officer happy to move his family from Atlanta to the country. His wife Lisa (Abigail Spencer) is on medication and battling what appears to be fits of delusion. That’s until Lisa realizes her daughter Heidi is also cursed with a sixth sense and has been contacted by a presence lingering around the nearly 150 year old home.
The story infuses an element of racial injustice that may seem a little callous in such a simple-minded production, but to the filmmakers credit they make it work. Led by a uniformly strong cast of familiar faces, the beautiful Abigail Spencer steals the show. She resembles Demi Moore or at least Jordana Brewster, her soft features and expressive glances suggest a vulnerability and mystery. Katee Sackhoff is appropriately goofy and reckless as the free-spirit sister-in-law with a reputation for leaching and a skill at getting into trouble. Cicely Tyson classes up the proceedings albeit in a cameo role playing the descendent of some of the slaves that used the property to escape to the North.
The decision to use practical effects over computer-generated effects, made for monetary rather than artistic reasons, works to Haunting’s advantage. Director Tom Elkins, a former editor debuting his first feature, retains old-fashioned methods to create tension, such as rattling window panes, the sudden appearance of ghostly faces, and dense swamplands leading to gore thankfully hinted at more often than shown. This is pure (and purely enjoyable) genre fodder not gussied up to appear to be anything else. After having to sit through the recent found footage horror movies and enduring the ‘torture porn’ sub genre, it’s refreshing to see a conventional haunted house story with a muted tone and some significant (well-earned) jumps. Displaying actual photographs of the Wyrick family today adds a level of authenticity absent from other ghost stories.
Director: Tom Elkins
Stars: Abigail Spencer, Chad Michael Murray, Katee Sackhoff