Saturday, March 28, 2009

how to make money off a mentally ill boy

i went to see the haunting in connecticut last night to review the film for my culture corner column. it's a foul stinker of a movie that exploits mental illness for cash.

it tells the tale of a family whose oldest son has cancer. they rent a house near the treatment clinic and soon enough the boy starts seeing ghosts and goblins. mutilated corpses menace him and he scares the crap out of his family by bullying his brother, shouting at his sisters and clawing the walls until his fingers bleed. a budget priest turns up with no dog collar, just a knock-off exorcist hat, and they get to the bottom of the situation: it was a funeral home, nasty things happened to the dead, and now they're getting payback. boo.

i left the cinema thinking it wasn't so bad - a low-end horror flick with some good camera work and a decent main actor, but also wondering what 'true events' the movie was based on. turns out a family called the snedekers did have a son who saw dead people and demons. turns out the kid also had schizophrenia. so he probably did see horrific things, but they were in his head. this would have made a superb movie - a horror flick that reveals itself to be a reality-based account of mental illnesses, but the haunting doesn't fill you in on that critical detail.

the priest in the movie stands in for ed and lorraine warren, the hucksters who also found lucrative ghosts in amityville. this great article in skeptical inquirer gets to the bottom of the shyster couple's talent for turning trouble into cash. this article does similar work.

the tormented teen was also into drugs and demonology before he started seeing things. the film limits the sexual abuse the family allegedly suffered at the hands of demons to a scene wherein the comely teenage daughter is molested by a shower curtain, but the real snedekers, via the warrens, claimed all sorts of groping hands in the night.

turns out the mentally-ill son also confessed to molesting his nieces in the house.

all of this is packaged into a glossy flick that urges us to grasp a primitive mindset, where mental illness is demonic possession and we'd better all watch out for witches. this crap is showing at the oxford, halifax's best cinema, which is just embarrassing.

i've pasted my column below, because at least it was fun to write.


The Haunting in Connecticut. Starring Kyle Gallner. Directed by Peter Cornwell.
Zero stars
Poor Matt Campbell has cancer, but that’s not the worst of it: the teenager is plagued by ghosts.
Like any gloomy teen, when his family moves into a new house he picks the basement bedroom. He starts seeing things, shadows flitting about and whatnot. A locked door is opened and Look out! there are loads of old-school embalming tools. The house used to be a funeral home. His mom mops the floor: he sees blood! He is terrified by mutilated corpses rising up, ancient séances and charred ghosts, so he calls on a priest who can’t afford a dog-collar and then.
I can’t even bother to go on. The Haunting in Connecticut is a moronic film stuffed with actors stiffer than corpses. Kyle Gallner is solid as the tortured teen, but the rest of the cast is so abysmal I’ll do them a favour and withhold their names. The script sounds like it was written by monkeys. At one point the mother actually turns to the son in distress and says, “Insert dialogue here.” Okay, she doesn’t, but that would have been better than the idiocy this fright-film-by-numbers peddles. Why don’t they just leave? It’s a rented house! Go to a motel!
Worst of all, The Haunting is showing at the Oxford, the closest thing Halifax has to a decent theatre. Shame on you, Ox.
Actually, worst of all is that The Haunting claims it’s based on real events. I doubted there was a house wherein shower curtains attack comely teenage girls, so I did a little Googling. That’s when a superstitious turd of a film became an offensive, shyster-filled, money-making abomination.
The family behind the story is called the Snedekers. As if that name wasn’t bad enough, their son Philip did have cancer and they did rent a big house. A fact not mentioned in The Haunting is that Philip also had schizophrenia. So the haunted scenes in the movie are actually, if anything, the horrifying hallucinations of a mentally ill boy. Ignoring this, the family called in the notorious hucksters Ed and Lorraine Warren. The “ghost hunters” declared the joint packed with demons and warmed up their cash register. The Warrens previously got lucratively slimed at a house in Amityville. Nice way to make a living.
Apart from the poor, disturbed boy, the only other people to have been frightened by this garbage are the young family who now live at the Snedeker house. They’ve never seen ghosts, but they’ve seen plenty of gawkers park out front to take photos. Some beastly people have knocked on the door and scared the kids with the brainless ghosts stories.
Schizophrenia is terrifying for the afflicted and their families. Exploiting this disease for entertainment is despicable. I want my money back.
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