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An American Haunting The wind whispers ominous warnings of death before a malevolent entity arrives to claim the life of a young girl as director Courtney Solomon brings author Brent Monahan's chilling, fact-based story of supernatural murder to the screen in this tale of terror starring Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek. The year is 1818 and the Bell family is a quiet clan residing on a remote farm in Red River, TN. A normal, loving family by all accounts, the uneventful lives of the Bell family begin to take a dark turn when strange noises around the farm are followed by the arrival of a black wolf with piercing yellow eyes said to strike unspeakable fear into the very soul of all who encounter it. As the sadistic spirit singles out the youngest daughter of the Bell family for torment and her frightened parents search frantically for a rational explanation to the chilling events unfolding in their once-happy home, an eerie, disembodied voice promises death from beyond the grave. With the struggle rapidly turning violent and the Bells' desperate prayers for mercy going unanswered time and again, the shocking murder that followed would prove the only case in recorded American history where the death of a human being was directly attributed to an attack by an evil entity or spirit. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
Great horror movie!
Posted by: redandblack6s from: Winston-Salem, NC on
This was a good horror movie, my wife and I liked it. This movie has a good plot which is loosely based on true events. It has a great cast, lots of good jumpy scenes, and a great twist at the end. I highly recommend it! Also, some other great horror movies based on true stories are The Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut, and The Mothman Prophecies.
3 out of 3 found this review helpful.
Nearly fell of my bed!!
Posted by: Swedekiss from: on
In An American Haunting, a heavily stylistic gothic mode piece, things really do go bump in the night. Well, not so much bump, but more like thrashing around. Along with banging noises in the attic, slamming doors and windows, spinning clocks, shaking beds, rabid beasts, disappearing children, the movie offers up a barrage of sights and sounds and spooky shocks.
Heavy on the atmosphere, An American Haunting is supposedly a true story of the Bell Witch incident of 1818-21, which is supposed the most documented paranormal event in America and the only case that officially attributed a man's death to a spirit. The film uses a present-day framing device in which an adolescent girl is haunted by nightmares of an invisible intruder after discovering an old journal, an ancient doll and an equally ancient letter.
When her mother starts reading the journal, the film flashes back to the early 1800's where the Bell family of Tennessee is in a spot of bother. Up until now, Mr. Bell (Donald Sutherland) has been a respected figure in the community but it seems that he has charged a certain Kate Batts (Gaye Brown) 20% interest on a loan and then used her failure to pay, to take the land he was renting from her.
The court offers a kind of quasi-religious judgment saying it was usury, but when the judges don't exact enough punishment, Batt's puts a curse on Bell and his beautiful teenage daughter Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood). It doesn't take long for spirits to appear and what starts out as something sounding like squirrels banging in the attic turns into a full-blown poltergeist as Betsy's covers are pulled off her bed and she's thrust around her bedroom hanging from her hair and smacked across the face.
Whilst Betsy's father gradually deteriorates, falling ill, and seems resigned to his fate, is wife Lucy Mother Lucy (Sissy Spacek) and son John Jr. (Thom Fell) are really concerned, but haven't a clue what to do. Documenting the unsettling events in his journal is Betsy's initially skeptical teacher (James D'Arcy), whose attraction to the girl is encouraged by Lucy for grim reasons made clear in the film's final moments.
The performances are all strong, especially from veterans Sutherland and Spacek, and the revelation when it comes is actually quite a surprise. The pacing is tight and the period detail and the sense of time and place is beautifully wraught. Pulse-quickening elements abound, from cinematographer Adrian Biddle's circular camerawork, in wintry Bucharest and Montreal locations, to the dynamic sound design and Caine Davidson's all-enveloping musical score.
Some may find the episodes where Betsy is being tossed around in her bed, dragged across the floor, held suspended in midair and slapped by an invisible entity, a bit silly. And there's a real question mark over how much of these events are actually true and how much has been embellished for the film.
Still, the movie manages to boast a gothic visual atmosphere that's quite appropriate for this type of story. Those eerie forests, dimly lit rooms, washed-out dreamscapes, and dark rainy nights really give you a creepy feeling and really help perpetuate the foreboding ambience that something is not quite right at Bell House.
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
A criminally underrated horror masterpiece,
Posted by: Animeboy413 from: New York ' Ny on
There are many things in this world I will never understand, and one of them is how this movie's ratings can be so low. Simply put, An American Haunting is the best haunted house movie I have ever seen. I have to admit I did not like or approve of the way the story ended, and the modern-day intro and exit scenes were wholly unnecessary, but everything in between is pure haunted gold. I have to believe that some viewers' dissatisfaction comes from knowing what happens before they see the movie, as even the editorial review on this page reveals one of the film's core secrets. As much as I disapprove of its existence, that particular secret (which bears the unmistakable fingerprints of sleazy Hollywood) plays out beautifully in the film's presentation. Cut out the modern-day cinematic bookends, and this film has one of the most impressive scripts I've come across in some time. The much-ballyhooed cast play up to their potential and then some, the direction is flawless, and the special effects (including the POV scenes that some viewers ridicule) are, to my mind, incredibly effective. I absolutely love An American Haunting.
Basing itself on the only documented case in US history of a spirit causing someone's death, An American Haunting basically markets itself. Don't get too wrapped up in the historicity of this movie, though, as director Courtney Solomon plays fast and loose with the true story of the Bell Witch. The "based on true events" moniker is in fact quite disingenuous, as this movie is really based on Brent Monahan's purely fictional novel The Bell Witch: An American Haunting. Anyone who knows anything about hauntings knows the legend of the Bell Witch, an entity that no less a man than Andrew Jackson supposedly confronted (although there's no evidence to substantiate that claim), but this is not the real Bell Witch's story.
John Bell (Donald Sutherland) was a big man in his little Tennessee town - until the church fathers condemned him for charging Kate Batts too much interest on a loan. Batts, widely reputed to be a witch, openly threatens Bell and his innocent daughter Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood), and it isn't long at all until strange things start happening in and around the Bell home. Bell starts seeing animal spirits that disappear in the wink of an eye, increasingly disturbing scratching and running sounds in the attic and roof begin disturbing the family's sleep, and all too soon young Betsy is targeted for physical abuse by an unseen spirit. John and his wife Lucy (Sissy Spacek) initially believe Betsy is having nightmares, but the sight of their daughter suspended in midair while being slapped around mercilessly by an unseen spirit pretty much puts an end to the nightmare theory. Now desperate, John calls in the local school teacher Richard Powell (James D'Arcy), who insists there is a natural explanation for what is happening - until he sees the entity's handiwork for himself. As the nightly attacks become increasingly violent and terrifying, we witness the toll it takes on everyone concerned, particularly John and Betsy. All the while, almost unnoticeably at times, important little puzzle pieces are being dropped along the way - and that is why the ending, as much as I disapprove of it, works so amazingly well.
I thought the way the director approached the presentation of the attacks was exceedingly effective, particularly the entity point-of-view shots. Some viewers apparently disagree with me on that, but I thought all of the unconventional camera work made the attacks all the more real and visceral - and ratcheted up the sense of helplessness and chaos in the house. This movie definitely has the potential to scare more than a few viewers. The casting director deserves a ton of credit, as well. The gorgeous Rachel Hurd-Wood truly brings Betsy to life, and I can't overstate just how challenging that role must have been. Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland are even more impressive as John and Lucy Bell. Sutherland was the perfect choice for John Bell, while Spacek works wonders in what I consider a somewhat understated role.
I know I'm repeating myself here, but I have to state once again that An American Haunting is the best haunted house (for want of a better term) movie I have ever seen. I can't for the life of me understand why some many critics and viewers have panned this film. Methinks the fact that a movie this riveting and impressive can be so disparaged does much to explain why Hollywood turns out so much brainless drivel these days.
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
GOOD OLD FASHIONED HAUNTED HOUSE FLICK
Posted by: Frenchkisser from: on
An American Haunting is based on the haunting of the Bell family, one of the most documented hauntings in American history. Many theories surround what actually happened during the haunting, and this film peruses one that has become most prevalent, at least in the accounts I've read. (I can't tell you what or I'd give away the ending)
Both Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek lend a touch of class to a quite horror movie. Yes, this is a haunting, but the images aren't horrific, nor is the action overly exaggerated. Many of the most horrific concepts of the film are cerebral, one has to think them through. You're not beaten over the head with images of monsters, ghosts, or demons in this movie. If that is what you're looking for, this may not be your flick.
Overall, it is well done and well made, but one has to pay attention to small details to reap all the intricacies of the plot. Perhaps it is because I've studied this case, but it did not present anything new to me. I was hoping for something more. However, the film did have some strong points such as the acting of Sutherland and Spacek and a second twist ending that left me with enough positives to balance out the negative of a ho-hum plot.
If you're looking for a quiet movie to watch on a dark and stormy night, this is probably your movie. If you're looking for something over the top full of gore and monsters, definitely look elsewhere because you'll be disappointed
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
Interesting tale on the Bell Witch
Posted by: Twlightfann from: on
I first heard of the Bell Witch when the movie "An American Haunting" was released in theaters in 2005. I did a little research on the internet, and found a forum discussion in the Paranormal section of [...]. There wasn't much in the way of information about the haunting, but we are talking about an event that is almost 200 years old, and you can expect the information to be a bit scarce.
So, when I received a copy of "An American Haunting" to review, I didn't know what to expect. But I was excited, after all, movies about true-life hauntings are a necessity for certain times of the year (A Hallow's Eve), aren't they!
The movie doesn't waste any time in getting to the action, and right away I found myself perched on the edge of the couch, wondering what was going to happen. And the entire movie was like that. It wasn't until the very end that I had one of those "Ah ha" moments and received a bit of clarity about the story-line.
Set in rural Tennessee in the early 1800s, "An American Haunting" is based on the true story of a spirit who repeatedly brutally attacks the Bell family (and actually causes the death of one of the family members). The movie stars Donald Sutherland as John Bell, Sissy Spacek as his wife Lucy and Rachel Hurd-Wood as their daughter Betsy. Their story starts off with John Bell having a heated argument with a woman who is rumored to be a witch. After their argument, things start happening at the Bell home. At first it's just small noises, but soon the spirit encounters become violent, and center on the daughter, Betsy.
I'm glad I wasn't too familiar with the legend of the Bell Witch, because I didn't worry about whether the story was following the legend or not, and I just enjoyed the movie for what it was -- haunting and scary! And I think that just knowing it was based on a real haunting made it even scarier.
The acting was great, and the scenery was absolutely stunning! The visual effects were believable and not too crazy. The story itself was not just a horror movie, but truly a psychological thriller that kept you wondering until the end what was going on.
A great thriller anytime, but definitely now part of my Halloween scary movie watching tradition, "An American Haunting" is a great movie for anyone who loves a good ghost story; especially those stories of real-life hauntings.
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
An interesting story with a confusing ending
Posted by: SealessHope from: on
I've always been interested in those PG-13 horror movies that are almost always dumb, but entertaining nonetheless. Therefore, I rented this movie with low expectations. However, watching it at midnight by myself, I found myself completely intrigued by the film. It honestly gave me the chills. I must've jumped an inch out of my seat at least five times.
I can honestly say that I've never actually been scared much by "scary" movies. I've watched classics like The Shining and Carrie without so much as a cringe, as well as newer teen-horrors.
An American Haunting is a genuinely creepy movie. The torturing of the Bell family's young daughter Betsy is both disturbing and fascinating; I found I couldn't take my eyes away as she was dangled from the ceiling and repeatedly slapped across the face by an invisible entity. The use of color, switching to black and white, during the ghostly attacks is well done and adds to the mood of fear and confusion.
When American Haunting came out last year, I actually planned on going to see it in the theaters. I was intrigued by the mention that it was based on true events, and so I did some research on the real Bell Witch of Tennessee. From what I read and what I saw in the movie, the director did a very nice job of accurately depicting the events without too much hollywood fluff. An American Haunting is a very satisfying ghost story, and worth seeing.
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
Could have been a much better "Haunting
Posted by: Noname1985 from: Tampa, Fl on
he Bell Witch is a legend throughout the Southeastern part of the United States. It is rumored that Pres. Andrew Jackson confronted the entity. Of all the potential stories and variations possible for this legend, this movie obliterated the lore.
Many people enjoy the folklore of the Bell Witch and the only known death attributed to a supernatural entity. The movie starts great with good characters, realistic performances, and great effects. About mid-way through, all that changes. Suddenly, the characters fall into aged stereotypes. You will probably already know what those are.
The conclusion of the story is utterly predictable. This is a prime situation where they start with good intentions, but fall woefully short of the mark. It's feminism gone painfully awry and you wonder why on earth you wasted 90 minutes when the best part is the first 45.
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
Mediocre Horror Film
Posted by: mirvous from: washington, dc on
I had high expectations for this film, looked like a great horror story based on a real haunting. It turns out the movie's interpretation of the film is not scary after all, but more of a disturbing relationship within the family. I would recommend researching the legend of Bell Witch before watching the film.
0 out of 2 found this review helpful.
A Frightfully Well-Told Tale
Posted by: Fosettla from: (Lawrence, KS on
I watch this movie by mistake and I was not interesting to watching at the begining when a friend share it to me because I thought that was a horror movie like "The exorcist" but when I start to watch it, start to interest me...
Because I want to understand what was going on, I believe that a curse can change your life, and everything you do in life can affect your family, that's true..
I bought this movie because after see it twice to understand it more... was a great movie with a message, you have to try to understand why the spirit just distub to the girl, for me this spirit was her spirt that take revenge of what happend and try to show to everyone how that happends but no one understand...
you have to put attention at the begining of the movie to understand why that happend... for me this is a great movie with a great message, I recommend it to you, there are a great actors, and the movie maintains you anxious all the time
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
a different approach to the horror genre
Posted by: Wickedkid from: not saying due to personal reasons on
An American Haunting" takes parts of "The Amityville Horror" and Tim Burton's " Sleepy Hollow" and mixes them into a visually striking package of horror and suspense. The power of "The Amityville Horror" is that years later many viewers still get creeped out every time they happen upon a Dutch Colonial house; at least in part due to supposedly factual content of the story behind the film. "Sleepy Hollow" was simply the most stylish and lavish horror film ever, when the visuals were combined with its all-star cast the result was a viewing pleasure no matter how you felt about the quality of the actual story.
"An American Haunting" is set in rural Tennessee early in the 19th century. John Bell (Donald Sutherland) and his wife Lucy (Sissy Spacek) live on a farm with their two teenage children Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood of "Peter Pan" fame) and John Jr. (Thom Fell).
John Sr. is accused of usury (charging too high interest) and cursed by his accuser who may or may not be a witch. The haunting then begins and features ghostly wolves, noises in the attic (squirrels maybe?), and the spectral appearance of a long-haired girl. Things soon escalate as the angry spirit seemingly seeks to abuse/possess Betsy.
The film is very loosely based on Brent Monahan's novel, "The Bell Witch", which was inspired by an actual historical event. Fortunately Director Courtney Solomon follows horror film conventions and manages to work a fair amount of self-parody into the production, much as he did in his earlier film "Dungeons & Dragons". This may disappoint those who are there only for a scare, as the Hammer horror clich?s and overwrought histrionics work against the creepy factor. You still get a nice package of scares for your money with some witty and campy stuff thrown in for diversion.
Sutherland nicely overplays his character while Spacek grounds the film with a realistic take on the terror and bewilderment a god-fearing woman of those times would have experienced. Hurd-Wood is fine but is not properly showcased as Solomon instead borrows (too heavily) the demon's point-of-view technique of "It Came From Outer Space" and "Evil Dead". There is simply too much devoted to staging the action from the sweeping POV of the unseen demon.
There is a nice twist, much like the ending of "Repulsion", which you will probably guess while viewing or read about beforehand.