EXCL: Producer Talks Haunting in Connecticut

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Giving horror a new home

And you thought the Freeling family had it bad. When it comes to haunted houses, screenwriter Dan Farrands, like an apprehensive Roddy McDowell in The Legend of Hell House, knows them all too well.

Before a remake to The Amityville Horror came about in the spring of 2005, the Halloween 6 scribe directed back-to-back documentaries on the real “Amityville” case for The History Channel. Later he’d go on to fight a litigious debate with “Amityville” 2005’s producers over credit due for a previously proposed sequel to the long-running franchise that ultimately led to the remake’s existence. By his side, the late George Lutz, friend and witness to the Long Island horror that allegedly took place at 112 Ocean Avenue.

Then came A Haunting in Connecticut, a film gearing up for a late-summer start with Farrands producing alongside Paul Brooks, Wendy Rhoads and Andy Trapani. Tim Metcalfe and Adam Simon (director of the horror doc The American Nightmare) supplied the script working from a true story – a fortuitous discovery on behalf of Farrands while he was developing his “Amityville” sequel.

“I remembered a book that I’d read many years earlier about a family who had gone through a similar ordeal,” he tells Shock. “I found their story to be even more compelling than ‘Amityville’ in some ways because it began literally with a life or death situation. Unlike the Lutzes, this family was forced to uproot themselves to be closer to the clinic where their eldest son, who was about 15 or 16 at the time, was undergoing radical cancer treatment. The family’s financial resources were all but drained at this point and the mom, who was driving the son over 100 miles a day to and from the clinic, finally reached a breaking point. So she decided to rent a house in a small Connecticut town to save the commute and the physical strain it was putting on her son. What the family came to find out later was that the house they rented (pictured above) was previously a funeral home with a rather disturbing past.”

“In terms of the story, I just found the whole thing so interesting and so frightening,” he continues. “It’s one of those situations that initially has nothing to do with ghosts or ghouls or hauntings. There were no lingering thoughts of a mass murder that had been committed in the house. This was to be a safe haven for the family while they attempted to get through a really traumatic ordeal. They had no idea that the more malignant ‘cancer’ they would end up fighting would be the house itself.”

The ordeal became the basis of a Discovery Channel documentary directed by John Kavanaugh in 2002. Actual family members were interviewed but their identities were masked in shadow to avoid public recognition – a bit of a bind for Farrands who had convinced his managers, Trapani and Steve Whitney, the idea was ripe for the big screen. He had hoped to connect with the family, “so short of hiring a private detective, I turned to the next best resource: the Internet. After a couple of weeks of surfing and scouring online, I found the mom’s name mentioned in a small blurb in her local church newsletter. The family had of course moved by this time – several states away, in fact. But I lucked out. Not only had I found the right family, but I actually received a return phone call a few days later from Mrs. Snedecker. Like George Lutz, I found her to be completely forthright about what had and hadn’t happened to her family. And like the Lutzes, they had comes across a number of unsavory types who tried to capitalize on and then discredit their story, so there was a bit understandable skepticism when I first proposed my idea for a film.”

A blessing to commence with the project was given, however, and “Connecticut” was set up at Gold Circle Films, a company already familiar with the supernatural thanks to White Noise and its upcoming sequel. “They understood the idea from the get-go and put a script into development right away. I didn’t attach myself as a writer on the project, as I wasn’t interested in writing another haunted house project on the heels of “Amityville.” But [Tim Metcalfe and Adam Simon] did a great job and their script got us a greenlight to move forward to the next phase.”

Awarded the task with directing “Connecticut” is Australia filmmaker Peter Cornwell – a budding artist who garnered attention with his animated short Ward 13 (see the trailer here). “I think he brings a really interesting visual style and panache that harkens back to a young Carpenter, Cronenberg and even Spielberg.” And stepping in front of the camera, the Hollywood trades have reported Virginia Madsen is a lock to play distressed mother and victim of the supernatural unknown Sara Campbell. “She elevates our project and takes us to a whole new level. And she was in ‘Candyman.’ Enough said!”

Strangely enough, don’t expect cameras to roll in Connecticut – which has become a popular destination for production – location scouting for the film is underway in Canada.

Source: Ryan Rotten