Ghosts. Can’t live with ‘em and (apparently) can’t live without ‘em. That’s what a good ghost story would have you believe. With the prevalence of ghost stories these days, you’d wonder how there yet remain a house or a property that’s entirely specter-free, but maybe that’s just this reviewer over-thinking the proposition. I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories when they go to lengths to give the audience a reason to care about the real life characters that populate these kinds of films. GHOSTS OF GEORGIA works harder than it needed to in that respect, delivering a finished product that’s longer than it needed to be but might be just what some folks expect from a budding franchise.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Lisa Wyrick (a glowing Abigail Spencer) has a problem. A real problem. She’s grown up with the ability to see ghosts. Real ghosts. With medication, she’s been able to keep it under control, but a move to a new country home in historic Georgia – along with her husband Andy (Chad Michael Murray), her daughter Heidi (Emily Alyn Lind), and her sister Joyce (Katee Sackhoff) – brings Lisa closer and closer to the realization that Heidi is starting to experience visions all of her own. As it turns out, their property is possessed by a chilling secret linked back to the Underground Railroad during the Civil War; what started out as an attempt to help runaway slaves morphed into experiments in terror. All of this serves to put the family on a collision course with a spirit powerful enough to destroy the lives of the living.
Horror movies come and go. As GHOSTS OF GEORGIA testifies, there’s a cottage industry that could be built up around almost any property. (This is a thematic sequel-of-sorts to 2009’s THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT.) Having never seen the original, I couldn’t say how well this experience relates to the first, but, as chillers go, this one is pretty benign. The script by David Coggeshall is bloated with moments that largely feel repetitive – lots of flashes of ghosts walking through fields, lots of photo-play with darks and lights, plenty of close-ups on scared or terrified faces, etc. – when the previous scene already established a credibly spooky atmosphere. At 101 minutes, this feels at times like 1,001 minutes, and that effect rarely serves a scary movie well.
I did admire how well Coggeshall plundered elements from history (the Underground Railroad, the harsh reality of the Civil War, etc.) to give the supernatural elements greater depth. Lesser writers probably would’ve merely created a freakishly diabolical madman and made him a ghost, but GHOSTS OF GEORGIA plays cleverly back into an earlier era – a different set of social circumstances – and, thus, the picture is strengthened. There’s even a lynching – maybe even two, depending upon how you interpret the story – thrown in for good theatrical measure, and it’s played ingeniously against the visual symbolism of a child’s swing. More of that would’ve elevated this film to a higher level; but, as happens too often these days, the climax is heavily fraught with normally sensible characters behaving senselessly, killing much of the impact of what they discover.
Not bad, but not perfect. Might there be a third HAUNTING in the offing? Stranger things have happened.
THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA is produced by Gold Circle Films and Lionsgate. DVD distribution is being handled through Lionsgate. The film is viewable in full widescreen presentation. As for the technical specifications, it looks and sounds terrific. Also, the disc is replete with special features, including an audio commentary with the director, writer, and director; a 10-minute documentary focusing on the real Wyrick family; deleted scenes (with optional commentary); a few associated theatrical trailers; and a couple of minutes of outtakes – mostly funny flubs but one unfortunate bee-stinging. Ouch!
RECOMMENDED. It’s a bit too long for my tastes – some of the family moments could’ve been trimmed because so many of the scenes simply restate thematically what we’ve already been told – but GHOSTS OF GEORGIA serves up some modest, effective CGI-light scares (always a plus in my book). There’s plenty of camera trickery to match up against the things that go bump in the night. However, a tighter pace would’ve been appreciated because that would’ve delivered the frights a bit faster. It’s a respectable attempt toward incorporating a human-interest drama into a light scare-fest (why was this thing rated R?), but it’s possibly a bit too much for younger viewers.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Lionsgate provided me with an advance DVD copy of THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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