Posted: 05/12/2006


An American Haunting


by Dianne Lawrence

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In An American Haunting, director Courtney Solomon (Dungeons and Dragons) explores the true account of the events of 1818 when the Bell family of Red River, Tennessee had a run in with a rather nasty poltergeist. Mr. John Bell a gentleman farmer (played by the always fabulous Donald Sutherland) and landowner is shamed in a church court for exacting a rather steep interest rate on a loan. As he leaves the court his victim directs a curse at he and his dewy eyed adolescent daughter Betsy (a very pretty Rachel Hurd-Wood).

Before you can say Amytville Horror, Mr. and Mrs. Lucy Bell (Sissy Spacek picking up some extra cash) are watching their daughter being dragged and tossed about her bedroom, pulled by the hair into the air, bitch slapped and apparently ghost raped. The family asks for the help of a bible wielding friend and a skeptical schoolteacher and the film is off and running.

There are a few real horror filled moments. The first is the script and story. So, so horrible. For most of the film we are watching yet another pretty young actress get tossed about and abused for our entertainment. It’s not really scary anymore and it’s disturbing for all the wrong reasons. Another horrible moment is when you realize the family continues to leave poor Betsy alone in her bedroom night after night as the terrible force continues to visit her, pull her covers down and attempt to have sex with her.

Geeez! If I’d heard one sound coming from under my bed or in my closet when I was a kid I would have never slept alone in my room again!! But there’s mom, as she catches a ghostly shadow move across the floor of her daughter’s room, thinking “nah I didn’t really see that,” and slowly closing the bedroom door.

Hmmm. Your daughter is being visited rather aggressively every night by an unseen spook wanting sexual favors!! Time to move her into your room!!! It’s one unconvincing moment after another with an occasional BOO thrown at you. This film would have worked in the late fifties early sixties but with the horror bar raised so high these days, this is nothing more than a harmless spooky bed time story for the kids. But it might be awkward explaining the ending to them.

Then again with kids these days, probably not.

Dianne Lawrence is a film critic and artist living in Los Angeles. You can check out her artistic work here.

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