To answer your first question: no, “The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia” doesn’t contain even the most tenuous affiliation with that rote 2009 spooker. However, if Lionsgate hadn’t slapped that title upon this rote spooker, you’d be far less likely to pick it up off a Best Buy shelf, or give it a click at a Redbox machine, or even choose to read this very review. So be it.
“Based on the true story,” of course, “Ghosts of Georgia” takes place in the summer of 1993, as the Wyrick clan moves from Atlanta to the more rural and affordable Pine Mountain. Andy (Chad Michael Murray) works at the local corrections facility, leaving Lisa (Abigail Spencer) to care for their young daughter, Heidi (Emily Alyn Lind), with the help of her sister, Joyce (Katee Sackhoff). The thing is, the Wyrick women have a habit of seeing spirits -- a knack which Lisa is struggling to suppress with prescription meds -- and this family has moved smack dab in the middle of the undead Underground Railroad.
Literalizing the ghosts of America’s past is just about the only novel idea that writer David Coggeshall and director Tom Elkins have cooked up here, and even then, they aren’t sure how to exploit the concept without regrettably equating the spirits of slaves to your average boogeymen for a large part of the film. Despite some occasionally handsome widescreen framing, much of this is well-worn hokum, full of cracked picture frames, invasive insects, dreams within dreams, jump cuts, flickering lights (a phenomenon to which even the moon itself is susceptible) and the reliable false bottom of the second act, wherein our protagonists think they’ve solved the problem, only to make things much worse for themselves.
To the film’s credit, it doesn’t waste much time in doling out shadowy figures and fake-outs for the gullible and easily goosed, and the cast as a whole dutifully delivers its panicked looks and cries in the night. A cloudy-eyed Cicely Tyson makes a cameo appearance that dances on the verge of “Magical Negro” territory, but who can blame a screen legend for paying the bills.
“Ghosts of Georgia” ends with a line-up of the real Wyrick family, a ploy which brings to mind an incredibly evasive Q&A that followed the premiere of “The Haunting in Connecticut” at South by Southwest. The woman played on-screen by Virginia Madsen wouldn’t address whether or not the walls of her home were in fact filled by bodies, instead assuring those in attendance that “some very strange things happened in that house.” Given the similar basis in truth, I wonder which one of the Wyricks surely found themselves strung up by the mouth, “Hellraiser”-style, within a nearby camper, and how much more terrifying that experience must have been for them than this movie is for us.
“The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia” is currently available On Demand in addition to playing in select cities