An American Haunting (2006), or This Was Awful

25 10 2009

Well, every now and then you have to hit a brick wall. After a few days of decent horror flicks in my Halloween Spook-tacular, I found one that needs a bullet to the head. An American Haunting puts a lot of the movies I say are bad to shame. This one is just so disappointing it hurts. An American Haunting billed itself wrong on three different fronts; one, that it was a scary movie, two, that it was based on some semblance of folklore or local legend, and finally that the film featured a ghost. None of these things happen at any point in the movie, and I can only guess that the creators of An American Haunting felt it necessary to have to lie in order to mask the shameful lack of eventfulness in this incredibly dull ghost movie that promises the moon but only delivers a bitch-slap from a phantom (THAT ISN’T EVEN A PHANTOM!).

So we’re in the 1800s, somewhere around Tennessee, when we’re taken to the home of John Bell and his family. After Mr. Bell loses a case in court to a woman some people in town believe to be a witch, odd occurrences at his house begin to happen, particularly to his lovely daughter Betsy. She starts having visions of evil little girls and powerful supernatural entities that encompass her as night comes over her house. The father even encounters sightings of a terrible black wolf, and hears strange noises at night. It becomes clear to them that there is some sort of supernatural force at work here, a force that is growing stronger and stronger each night. Betsy’s teacher and some of the family friends come over to watch over the house and determine just what it is over the course of a few nights, and their astonishment knows no boundaries when they witness the terrible power of this spirit. What is this presence in the Bell house? Does it have to do with the curse the witchy woman cast on John? What will become of this distraught, well-to-do Tennessee family?

What indeed. Well, one thing that won’t happen to them is something interesting, I can tell you that much. This is one of the dreariest period pieces I have ever laid eyes on. I’ve seen piles of pencil erasers with more character than this film. There’s nothing remarkable about it, save that it’s void of anything approaching redemption. The dialog is some cheap semblance of historical realism that comes off as just lazy rather than genuine, the effects are well-worn territory that make the movie look like it should be called Little Exorcist on the Prairie, and the direction by Courtney Solomon, founder of After Dark Films, is tame and shrill compared to the ballsy horror film it could have been, proving that sometimes it’s better to be behind the desk than behind the lens.

I’m pretty harsh here, I know, but I tell you with no hyperbole that I feel absolutely infuriated by An American Haunting. It is a movie that lies to its audience. The entire idea is predicated on a falsehood. I’ve never wanted to spoil a movie for people more than I want to right now (except for maybe the ending to Knowing), because the twist at the end is so atrocious and so audacious, that I clenched my fist in anger and felt the bones in my palm. It completely invalidates itself and replaces any feelings you might have had for it with mere annoyance. If you want to know what I’m talking about, leave a comment on this page telling me you want some spoilers, and I’ll flat-out tell you. People have to be warned about this sort of thing.

The cast isn’t bad. Donald Sutherland is reliable as patriarch John Bell. He is a very serious man here with a very serious problem on his hands, and his face tells it like it is. Or maybe he was just tired a lot throughout shooting, I don’t know. Sissy Spacek is good as matriarch Lucy Bell. She cares about her family in that old-fashioned way where she comforts silently from the sidelines so as not to bother the men-folk. It’s quaint, and Spacek appears so emotionally injured all the time with that face of hers that I can’t really hate her. And Betsy, played by Rachel Hurd-Wood of Perfume fame, is not slouch herself. She plays that young and beautiful Southern belle with a fragility that is haunting in and of itself. I enjoyed her most of all out of this whole affair, and hope to soon remember this as “that movie that really sucked but had a good turn by Rachel Hurd-Wood as a girl haunted by a ‘ghost'”.

I really don’t have any patience for An American Haunting. Like a lazy Southern debutante, it was too lazy to do any of the things it was supposed to, so instead it just puts on some fine period costumes and dances around like we wouldn’t notice. Well I noticed, and I am feel pretty put-out by this film. If I have any advice for you this Halloween season, it is to NOT watch An American Haunting, not even as a lark. It’s not ha-ha bad, it’s “I can’t believe I PAID for this” bad. I give it 2 irredeemable endings out of 10, and a big thumbs-down from yours truly. Bah humbug.

Let’s try for something better tomorrow! I’m going to watch Hard Rock Zombies! Until then!




2 responses

26 10 2009

HA! Little Exorcist on the Prairie . Brilliant!!!

1 11 2009
Jenni David


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