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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.84%
Worth A Look: 8.2%
Average: 4.92%
Pretty Bad: 26.23%
Total Crap50.82%

5 reviews, 31 user ratings

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American Haunting, An
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by William Goss

"An American Tragedy"
1 stars

Recent movies seem to have become riper than usual for spawning their own drinking games. With 'Basic Instinct 2,' take a shot every time someone spouts the phrase “risk addiction.” With 'Mission: Impossible III,' do likewise with the term “rabbit’s foot.” As for 'An American Haunting,' throw one down with each and every sudden sound. Hell, if the hearing is bound to suffer anyway, one might as well take out their liver and standards while they’re at it, right? In theory, as the screen becomes blurrier, the film can only look better and better, and if that is what it takes to make it through such a frightless blunder, then bottoms up.

The film concerns itself with the only recorded case in American history where a spirit killed someone, that of the Bell Witch legend of 1800s Tennessee. (Read: just say it’s based on a true story, and we can embellish the shit out of it. Come on, man. Everybody’s doing it.) Anyway, young Betsy Bell (Rachel Hurd-Wood) finds herself frequently assaulted by a mysterious entity, much to the puzzlement of her parents, John (Donald Sutherland) and Lucy (Sissy Spacek), and professor Richard Powell (James D’Arcy). Could it be because John tried to cheat the local witch on paying back a loan, or because writer/director Courtney Solomon really wants to assault a Colonial family with an inexplicable wolf and ear-splitting decibel levels? We may never know.

Solomon’s sole previous experience was 2000’s abysmal Dungeons & Dragons, which bombed at the box office, was ravaged by critics and fans alike, and convinced Uwe Boll to put down that razor blade and pick up a camera instead. Over half of a decade later, Solomon must have wised up and realized that if that film simply couldn’t make it onto IMDb’s Top 250 or even its Bottom 100, he would have to go out and make a whole new movie to succeed where it had failed, for better (not that the bar was set particularly high) or worse (not that his growth in terms of filmmaking capability was particularly high, either). Since he probably had his fingers literally crossed during the production, the camera was propelled with only one hand, rationalizing the frequent spinning 'technique' that plagues many of Haunting’s scenes, as well as the tepid 'screenplay' that backs the whole 'story' (hey, it’s hard to hit all those keys with just a single hand). After a while, Sutherland finally croaks, “There’s something evil here!” It took him an hour to figure that out? Poor guy.

Actually, no “Poor guy.” Of the entire cast, Spacek and Sutherland almost deserve better, but let’s face it: they should know better. Hurd-Wood is merely fifteen years old, and both her resume and that of D’Arcy could use some meat on them. However, the veterans have no excuse. At least Spacek appears to apply her subsequent guilt towards her role, trying to make it through as quietly and unscathed as possible. Sutherland, on the other hand, opts to overdo it to an exhausting degree, a futile attempt to go beyond the impenetrable flimsiness that suffocates the entire project and everyone in it. The film plays as if it had been directed instead by Anchorman’s retarded weatherman, Brick “LOUD NOISES!” Tamland, who decided to go out and film every scene scratched out of the screenplay in order to fill time, patching the sequences together with a tiresome 'It was just another incredibly vivid and time-consuming nightmare!' routine at an alarming rate and padding the entire film with modern-day bookends that not only contribute nothing to the proceedings, but may even take away for them (if that's even possible). Then there’s the ending, which attempts to justify the possession with an explanation that had to be in the top five in terms of most far-fetched and least satisfying.

If you filmed all of my eye-rolling, hand-tossing, groaning, grunting, scoffing, shrugging, and slumping throughout the entire film and sped it up (and played it backwards, just for good measure), it could probably be marketed to the masses as a real-life possession scarier than the whole of 'An American Haunting.' After all, it would be immensely more accurate, vastly more frightening, and mercifully shorter by default. With that said, somebody get me a camera, and make sure it has a night-vision lens. I have a hack to outdo.

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originally posted: 05/07/06 16:40:54
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell boring tacky trash 1 stars
4/09/11 Annoymous Waste of two lead actors, waste of storyline about incest=Bad Movie 1 stars
2/26/11 Mary Ann Schlacks Movie had scary moments, but incest explanation didn't make sense. 4 stars
8/29/08 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
6/11/07 Marls Just a sad waste of time when it could have been much better 2 stars
3/22/07 MeMyself and I I enjoyed this movie! Love Sissy. A rare good suspensful film without unnecessary gore. 4 stars
2/20/07 Christine I thought it was a great movie and I would watch it again. 5 stars
1/21/07 David A. Delightfully creepy movie that offers a possible explanation for the Bell WItch legend. 5 stars
12/28/06 David Pollastrini Brilliant, with a great twist 5 stars
12/05/06 Indrid Cold The same 2 or 3 scenes repeat ad nauseum and then bam! ... an out-of-nowhere twist ending. 2 stars
12/04/06 Traice There were jumps, but how many times did they make her sleep in that bedroom?! BAD ending! 2 stars
11/15/06 Melissa It was ok. Seems like they couldn't think of an ending & just threw something in to end it. 3 stars
11/04/06 Sam Kepfield BOOOOOOO! 1 stars
10/29/06 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
10/14/06 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
6/28/06 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
5/18/06 David the real story is actually scary. This movie is NOT. 1 stars
5/18/06 Alfred Guy The real account is much scarier and logical. 3 stars
5/17/06 John it seems like a decent short has been put on a loop and you watch it 100 times 2 stars
5/14/06 movi_critic what a waste of time and space, it went nowhere; the few "special effects" sucked. 1 stars
5/14/06 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
5/10/06 San Lamar Decent Horror Entry 3 stars
5/06/06 Heather Runyan great movie! 4 stars
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  05-May-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Oct-2006



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