The bent backwards floaty girl on a poster horror movie subgenre gets yet another addition to its ranks in the form of this ‘sequel’, which follows not so proudly in the tradition of MUTANT 2, THE CELL 2, and TROLL 2 (not films you’d want your movie to be grouped with) in having absolutely nothing to do with its predecessor. As usual, it’s those naughty distributors who are to blame - in the out-takes presented as extras on this fine-looking Blu-ray the title on the clapperboard is quite clearly THE HAUNTING IN GEORGIA. However, it’s never been in the nature of the exploitation film industry to take any risks where product recognition might be concerned, and so this movie gets to labour under the rather unwieldy title above.
I rather liked the original HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, featuring as it did some nice literary in-jokes (Ramsey Aickman and the Campbell family) and a climax so deliciously crazy that its cavalcade of corpses walled up in a mortuary would not have been out of place in one of Lucio Fulci’s better efforts. Weirdly enough, GHOSTS OF GEORGIA has a bit of a Fulci vibe to it as well, and we’ll come to that in due course.
The title card ‘Based on the true story’ will have those who have seen far too many films of this ilk claiming the same thing resisting the urge to raise a well-exercised eyebrow, as we are introduced to the rather airbrushed working class Wyrick family. This consists of Greg Evigan wannabe Chad Michael Murray as the Dad With Perfect Hair, Abigail Spencer as the Mother With Perfect Hair and Makeup (despite having mental health issues that result in her needing to take baths fully clothed), and Emily Alyn Lind as their daughter Heidi and easily the best actress in the film.
The Wyrick family move into their dream home in the middle of nowhere that comes complete with a trashy camper van in the garden where mum’s equally trashy sister Joyce (a roughed up-looking Katee Sackhoff) gets to stay when she arrives unannounced and not exactly invited.
It becomes apparent that the house was previously occupied by a taxidermist who used to aid escaping slaves back in the Bad Old Days. He was apparently executed by the local townsfolk for what he got up to, but, as Heidi starts to see all kinds of weird and ghostly apparitions, it becomes apparent (quite a long way into the picture it must be said) that all is not what it seems.
The film (I’m not typing that title out again) has come in for something of a critical lambasting in various quarters, but it’s actually not that bad. In fact, the worst thing I can accuse it of is not giving what turns out to be quite a ripping grand guignol of a backstory the treatment it deserves. Director Tom Elkins is not a hack by any means, and he’s capable of crafting some fine scary imagery. BritHorror obsessives will be wondering if he’s a fan of Freddie Francis’ THE CREEPING FLESH (if you know the film you’ll know which bits I mean) and whereas HAUNTING PART 1 ended with a scene reminiscent of Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, this time it’s HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY that die hard Euro fans will undoubtedly be reminded of. Unfortunately, very little of this is put together in a way that would tell this story the mosteffectively, meaning that by the end you feel a bit cheated. There’s a good story in here, and some of the effects and imagery are marvellous, but the film takes far too long to get going and meanders all over the place for the first eighty minutes such that when the revelations come you wish the film had got to that bit half an hour earlier.
Extras include out-takes that actually helped endear me to the film more, some deleted scenes, and a featurette about the ‘true’ story and family on which the film is based.
HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA is not the utter failure other reviews may lead you to believe, and is actually a reasonable enough time waster if any of the above has made you think you might like to see it. If nothing else it’s reassuring to find a film adhering to that old scriptwriting rule that if you introduce a taxidermist in Act I, he damn well needs to have stuffed something interesting (and preferably horrific) by Act III.
HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA will be released on DVD & Blu-ray on 3rd March 2014 by Lionsgate Entertainment.