Director: Tom Elkins
Writer: David Coggeshall
Producer: Paul Brooks, Scott Niemeyer
Stars: Abigail Spencer, Chad Michael Murray, Katee Sackhoff, Emily Alyn Lind, Cicely Tyson
After moving into a secluded home that was once a stop along the Underground Railroad, the Wyrick family soon discovers that the property’s past may be far darker than history remembers.
The thing about bad ideas in Hollywood is that it is difficult to have one in a vacuum. Let me rephrase that. Bad ideas are rather commonplace. What I mean to say is that it is difficult to be the only person with a bad idea and see it somehow translated onto the screen. Bad scripts need directors to bring them to life. Bad actors need casting agents to give them roles. And behind every bad decision is the moneyman signing the check that brings it into being. So it is not so much that someone had the idea to name a horror film set in Georgia as “The Haunting in Connecticut 2,” but enough people agreed with the notion that the movie was actually released this way.
With apologies to “The Simpsons,” not since “The Neverending Story” has a title so blatantly misrepresented the movie. I was unaware that “The Haunting in Connecticut” (review here) spawned a franchise, but evidently there is a perceived benefit to marketing “Ghosts of Georgia” as a sequel to that movie. Not only is this film in no way connected to the Nutmeg State, but the word “Connecticut” is never even mentioned once. Yet the title is only the first nonsensical thing about “The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia.”
Lisa and Andy Wyrick move with their daughter Heidi to a secluded home in a wooded area of Georgia. Flighty Aunt Joyce soon joins them and the family discovers that their property was once an important stop for slaves along the Underground Railroad. The women of the Wyrick family are known for being susceptible to strange visions and before long, young Heidi begins receiving visits from a mysterious Mr. Gordy. Mr. Gordy seems to be communicating a message that the legendary figure known as “The Stationmaster” may not be as benevolent as history remembers.
Most of this background comes from Pastor Wells. He does the Wyricks the courtesy of dropping by and introducing himself after they move in. Usually a haunting escalates to a breaking point before the family seeks out a clergyman for help. “Ghosts of Georgia” bypasses that step and just has the good pastor make himself available right away.
The central story of “Ghosts of Georgia” is interesting. The Underground Railroad era of American history is seldom seen in this genre and the unfolding mystery behind The Stationmaster and Mr. Gordy’s true roles in the property’s haunted history maintains its intrigue. However, this particular haunting has one crippling defect: it is not scary.
From demonic possession to cursed houses, hauntings usually involve an evil force that tries either to take over a person or to run everyone off the property, if they are not killed or driven mad first. Mr. Gordy has neither of those goals. For the first act of the film, various ghosts appear as images to both mother and daughter. Although they are accompanied by music that says they are to be feared, no real menace is to be found. Other spirits might be slamming doors shut or making walls bleed. Meanwhile, the ghost of Mr. Gordy helps Heidi find a swing set. Then he leads the family to a buried treasure. Later, he guides Heidi as she rides her bike. Spooky.
Since the ghosts do not initially do anything worth making skin crawl, the movie tries manufacturing scares from a confusing kaleidoscope of imagery. During a scene where the little girl is trapped down a darkened shaft, ghostly images surround her, though they have nothing to do other than simply be there. The camera spins around the girl in between quick cuts of shriveled corpse faces with an undertone of whispery sounds. The scare is supposed to come from the image itself rather than what it may mean for the character, which in this case, is not much. That is not a successful formula for effective chills.
This is par for the course in how “Ghosts of Georgia” aims for horror. It adds in doses of things that are supposed to be frightening in theory, yet have no real context motivating them. Several scenes include large clusters of Madagascar hissing cockroaches either climbing all over skeletons or being vomited out of a mouth. Crawling insects are creepy, right? Never mind how cockroaches from another continent made it into Georgia.
Not helping matters is some off-the-wall characterization. Lisa is all too aware that the women in her family are prone to strange visions. In fact, she takes pills for this perceived affliction what seems like every ten minutes. Yet even after her daughter Heidi points to a hidden spot in the forest where a swing used to be, leads them to a buried treasure in the garden, and picks Mr. Gordy’s face out of numerous photographs, Lisa still refuses to accept that her daughter might have seen a ghost. When she continues to maintain that nothing is out of the ordinary after a cave full of skeletons is found underneath her property, all hope is lost that there may be any sense in this person’s head.
Not that the Wyricks are terribly sensible anyway. When the decision is finally made to leave the house, they intentionally schedule their move to take place in the dark of night. When is the last time you helped a friend carry a couch at 2am? I have never known anyone to move into or out of any place when the sun was not shining. Although granted, moving at night at least gives the daughter one more chance to lose herself in the woods while the father crashes his truck in the darkness and the mother and aunt are grabbed from the shadows.
There is an interesting tale behind the haunting. Unfortunately for “Ghosts of Georgia,” it makes a better mystery than it does a horror movie. The performances are good enough, but the cast is saddled with stunted pacing issues to keep the plot from advancing too soon. Add in that the ladies’ visions are done solely through a post-production filter rather than set dressing or other ethereal effect, and the feeling is that this is what a haunting would look like if it was done by Hallmark Hall of Fame. Tame enough for a TV movie, and not enough to be authentically scary.
Review Score: 40