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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.84%
Worth A Look: 8.2%
Just Average: 4.92%
Pretty Crappy: 26.23%

5 reviews, 31 user ratings

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American Haunting, An
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by Peter Sobczynski

"As staged in Romania with a bunch of Brits and a Canadian."
1 stars

Just before the end credits roll on “An American Haunting,” which is based, we are told, on the Bell Witch Curse, a real paranormal case that is supposedly both the most documented in American history and the only one in which a spirit took the life of a human being, there is a title card informing us that there are over twenty different theories out that attempt to explain what actually happened to a Tennessee family in 1817. I don’t know all those various theories but I can’t imagine that any of them could be as silly and unlikely as the one depicted here by writer-director Courtney Solomon (the auteur of “Dungeons and Dragons”). His solution is astonishingly tasteless, unlikely and really quite silly but compared to the utter listlessness of the previous 75 minutes, the screwiness of the last 15 almost comes as a relief after all the boredom.

After a minor land dispute with a neighbor woman who is rumored to be a witch, the proud Bell family–headed by Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek–is suddenly beset by a paranormal force that seems to get its kicks out of tormenting the family, especially nubile daughter Rachel Hurd-Wood, in ways that will seem awfully familiar to any fan of demonic possession films–candles shoot out enormous flames, strange noises emanate from the attic and the like. Eventually, the attacks begin to center on the daughter and she is repeatedly physically, psychologically and sexually tormented by some unseen force. The local schoolteacher tries to explain these phenomena away in a rational manner (even after several people have seen the girl dangling in mid-air and being slapped about the face in a manner that suggests that will seem familiar to fans of a certain hard-hitting comedy trio) but eventually even he begins to admit that there are other forces at hand. Is it really the work of that local witch or has some other entity cursed the Bells–and if so, why? I wouldn’t dream of revealing the conclusion posited here except to note that it will satisfy virtually no one.

Although the film clearly strives for the low-key realism of something like the recent “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” it comes off more like one of those cheesy 1970's exploitation films from the late, lamented Sunn Classics–movies that would promise to show you proof of life after death or the existence of Noah’s Ark and then would never quite get around to offering anything conclusive. Of course, Sunn couldn’t afford the likes of Spacek or Sutherland, though they are so ill-used here that you wonder why Solomon bothered–Spacek looks vaguely embarrassed by the tackiness of the proceedings while Sutherland chews the scenery in a way that makes his “Outbreak” performance look like a model of restraint by comparison. (On the other hand, if I have to hear an actor be forced to actually declaim “There is something evil here!”, it might as well come from a well-cured ham like him.) As for Solomon, while the end result is not quite as off-the-charts bad as “Dungeons and Dragons” (mostly because of its utter lack of Jeremy Irons mincing around like a goof while being attacked by poorly rendered CGI dragons), his work here is as uninspired as everything else and he relies far too much on cheap visual tricks (including a constantly whirling camera and unmotivated switches from black-and-white to color) to cover up the fact that he has neither much of a story nor much of any idea of how to tell it.

The only person here who doesn’t completely humiliate herself is Rachel Hurd-Wood, whom you may remember as Wendy in the underrated 2003 version of “Peter Pan.” When she isn’t being thrown around the room, slammed against the walls and forced to undergo a PG-13 recreation of “The Entity,” she does a pretty good job of portraying a girl haunted by forces she can’t begin to understand–apparently too good, since she spends virtually all of the last half getting tossed around like a rag doll. However, I am confident that she will survive this catastrophe relatively unscathed, which is more than I can say for anyone else silly enough to fork over the price of a ticket.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14509&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/08/06 12:58:42
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User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell boring tacky trash 1 stars
4/08/11 Annoymous Waste of two lead actors, waste of storyline about incest=Bad Movie 1 stars
2/25/11 Mary Ann Schlacks Movie had scary moments, but incest explanation didn't make sense. 4 stars
8/28/08 Shaun Wallner Great Horror film!! 5 stars
9/24/07 Burgerman One of the few great ghost movies, it doesn't rely on gore to scare you. Worth watching. 5 stars
7/21/07 Tankgirl Great ,scary movie! The ending stunk. I wish they did not make Sutherland out to be a creep 4 stars
6/26/07 Marion It was SO funny! Especially liked those excruciating slaps. 1 stars
6/10/07 Marls Just a sad waste of time when it could have been much better 2 stars
3/21/07 MeMyself and I I enjoyed this movie! Love Sissy. A rare good suspensful film without unnecessary gore. 4 stars
2/19/07 Christine I thought it was a great movie and I would watch it again. 5 stars
1/20/07 David A. Delightfully creepy movie that offers a possible explanation for the Bell WItch legend. 5 stars
12/27/06 David Pollastrini Brilliant, with a great twist 5 stars
12/04/06 Indrid Cold The same 2 or 3 scenes repeat ad nauseum and then bam! ... an out-of-nowhere twist ending. 2 stars
12/03/06 Traice There were jumps, but how many times did they make her sleep in that bedroom?! BAD ending! 2 stars
11/14/06 Melissa It was ok. Seems like they couldn't think of an ending & just threw something in to end it. 3 stars
11/03/06 Sam Kepfield BOOOOOOO! 1 stars
10/28/06 Mike Classic horror story. This is a REAL ghost story, not crap like Saw. For the mature only. 4 stars
10/24/06 farcemaster truly a waste of $1.05 via the Red Box DVD rental machine 1 stars
10/13/06 desu kind of sucked. 1 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant The only scary thing was Sissy Spacek's face. So disappointing. Couldn't wait for it to end 1 stars
6/30/06 SACRILEGE! An AMERICAN _____ movie without Mena Suvari. An M. Night Shyamalan wannabee that makes even his worst look relatively good. 1 stars
6/27/06 Ariadne Christina Renee Gladstone Dreary and unentertaining, plus it's a totally bogus morality play! John Bell not THAT evil 1 stars
6/04/06 Charles This movie doesn't even scratch the surface of the real story. So dissapointing. 1 stars
5/17/06 David the real story is actually scary. This movie is NOT. 1 stars
5/17/06 Alfred Guy The real account is much scarier and logical. 3 stars
5/16/06 John it seems like a decent short has been put on a loop and you watch it 100 times 2 stars
5/13/06 movi_critic what a waste of time and space, it went nowhere; the few "special effects" sucked. 1 stars
5/13/06 Mase Like being forced to ride "the haunted mansion" over and over for 2 hours. God awful 1 stars
5/13/06 David I am amazed how ignorant critics have become when it comes to brilliant movies these days. 5 stars
5/09/06 San Lamar Decent Horror Entry 3 stars
5/05/06 Heather Runyan great movie! 4 stars
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  05-May-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Oct-2006



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