In 1817, local landowner John Bell finds himself in the magistrate's
court accused of renting land at twenty percent over the odds,
which is against church law. However, the aggrieved woman
receives no recompense as it is believed the taint on John's
name is punishment enough. The woman, long thought to be a
witch, puts a curse on John and his happy family. As soon
as spring arrives the following year things begin to go seriously
wrong. John is plagued with visions of an attacking wolf,
and his daughter, Betsy, begins to have contact with a seemingly
innocent little girl, who turns out to be less than benevolent.
Each night Betsy is violently attacked by an angry spirit,
and when John attempts to intervene he is beset too. When
Betsy becomes increasingly removed from her normal state,
and John himself becomes desperately ill, he visits the witch
woman to plead with her. But the woman insists she has not
cursed him, he has cursed himself. They will find the cause
closer to home, and even John's wife Lucy discovers she is
more than simply a witness to events...
story is based on the novel The Bell Witch - An American
Haunting by Brent Monahan, which is itself said to be
based on true events. Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek and
James D'Arcy star, so it's no surprise this is competently
acted. Having said that, this is a tale long in the telling.
are significantly overextended, so that any tension is lost
by hanging around with the camera too long. There is a sort
of introduction and epilogue that loosely links the near present
with events from the past, but as both add up to no more than
five or ten minutes together they have the effect of being
special effects are low key, with gas taps obviously being
utilised to make the open fires flare-up, and when Betsy is
being dragged across the floor by the unseen entity, she is
filmed from the elbow down so that you really don't see what
member of the crew is pulling her. It sounds like I hated
this film; it certainly serves its purpose, but the script
could have been tightened to comfortably be told in a fraction
of the running time. So this is average film fodder which
will better serve a mainstream audience with no preconceptions.
Any horror buff isn't going to be taken in or entertained
by this for a minute.
What I really did hate was the check disc I was given to review
the film on. There are no menus on it, no settings and no
extras; and with the time elapsed clock constantly above the
picture, and the recurrent appearances of the Lionsgate warnings
actually in the picture, watching An American Haunting
for review was a less than enjoyable experience. If reviewers
are not treated with respect, how can they in turn be expected
to show the product any respect?
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