Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Vintage Troublemaker - The Unborn and The Haunting in Connecticut

By Phantom Troublemaker

Originally posted in 2009 on the Phantom Troublemaker MySpace page.

I’ve got two more relatively brief movie reviews for you. Me and Mrs. Troublemaker watched both of these on Sunday.

The Haunting in Connecticut

Mrs. Troublemaker was more excited about this one than I was. She’s been talking about this movie ever since we saw the first trailer because she saw a special about the events it is based upon a few years ago. Apparently, the interviews with the family and their descriptions of the events were so unnerving that she had trouble sleeping for a few days, and my wife isn’t exactly squeamish. I wasn’t as excited because typically the “based on true events” claim means one of two things: boring or bullshit. If the movie or whatever sticks to the facts it is inevitably dull; whereas if the creators embellish for entertainment purposes they tend to go so far that the claim becomes a bit of a misnomer.

Anyway, A Haunting in Connecticut is a pretty solid movie. You’ve got a family trying to keep it together while the eldest son suffers from cancer. The father is a recovering alcoholic and the mother – Candyman’s Virginia Madsen – is pretty much TCB. The trips to the hospital in Connecticut are taxing on the son, so the apparently pretty well-off family decide they need to rent a house nearby. Enter spook central.

It doesn’t take long for supernatural shenanigans to ensue. The son chooses a room in the basement that features an adjoining room with darkened windows and an initially unopenable door. The adjoining room is, naturally, chock full of evil. A whole lot of really creepy shit happens in this movie, and the tremendous acting skills of whoever plays the son with cancer get you invested in his character - not only his paranormal plight, but his mundane physical ailment as well.

Shortly after the creepy shit starts, a factor is introduced that would have gotten me a lot more stoked about this movie if I had been aware of it – Casey Jones: Ghost Hunter! Okay, not really, but Elias Koteas does play an older gentleman of Gypsy heritage that the son meets at the hospital. He knows a thing or three about the supernatural and helps our hero get to the bottom of events. I don’t know if they did anything to make Mr. Koteas appear older than he really is or not, but I was shocked once I recognized him. It’s kind of hard to accept what nineteen years can do to you, I guess.

I’m not going to go any further into the plot, but I will say everything unfolds in an extremely satisfying manner. The story is very, very good. I was looking forward to watching the documentary and interviews on the disc to find out how closely the movie followed actual events, but apparently there is a special edition or that stuff is only on the Blu-Ray. There were no special features on the one I rented. That’s fine, I’ll buy it once I find it used – it was that good.

4 out of 5 Ectoplasmic Belches

(although the special features might bag the DVD itself an extra point – I dunno)

The Unborn

The Unborn is an entirely different sort of movie than A Haunting in Connecticut. With both being ghost stories comparisons are unavoidable, especially when you watch both of them in the same day.

The Unborn’s differences manifest early, when there is a particularly exploitative shot of our heroine in extremely well-fitting panties and an equally well-fitting shirt. You are left with no doubt that this movie is a bit more about entertaining you than making you think. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

If you’ve seen the trailers then you know the plot. The Unborn was yet another victim of Hollywood’s contempt for us – we’re just not smart enough to choose movies without knowing every little facet of the story. I really think this one would have played a lot better if we hadn’t known in advance that the antagonist was a twin that didn’t get to make the great vagina exodus. Then maybe you wouldn’t have been able to focus so intently on all the plot holes and narrative omissions. Seriously, there were a couple of times the wife and I had to question each other about something we thought we’d missed, only to come up with “I guess they just didn’t explain that…”.

Despite all that, this movie is very entertaining and creepy. There were several moments where I was genuinely startled, and not just due to loud music cues (despite what the honorable Chris Gore might have said). The acting is all as good as it needs to be, although Gary Oldman seems like overcasting (is that a word? Spellcheck says no) to me. He isn’t given enough to do to justify his presence. I guess an actual Jewish person as the Rabbi might have been off-putting to us dumb sheep.

The effects are solid except for one really awful-looking CGI shot. Maybe you won’t notice it if I don’t point it out. That’s why I don’t get too specific with problems in some of these “reviews”. Once somebody has shown you something, you can’t un-see it. If you don’t know about the potato in the asteroid field, you might never notice it on your own. Some people love knowing about the potato, but I kind of wish I’d never seen it. So I’m not going to be the one to point it out to anybody. 

Enough potatoes – The Unborn will thoroughly entertain you as long as you don’t pay too much attention to it. The odd thing is that the story is awesome. In other hands it might have been an incredible movie, as things stand, it is merely entertaining.

3 out of 5 Upside-Down Head Creatures

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