While this movie was basically trashed by reviewers when it was first released, I myself enjoyed it very much. There were even a couple “jump out of my skin” moments, which I love to have in a horror movie. What’s the point of watching a scary movie if you don’t actually feel scared?
An American Haunting is based on the true story of the Bell Witch, featuring the only case in American history in which the U.S. government listed a “spirit” as the cause of someone’s death. Cool. It stars Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland as Lucy and John Bell of Red River, Tennessee, whose daughter Betsy is tormented by an evil spirit after John’s swindling of a witchy neighbor. Bad move, John!
The time period is 1817…except, of course, when we see a minor parallel plot occurring in the modern-day home featuring another young, pretty girl who found Lucy’s journal in her attic…still with me? Good. Back to 1817. Now, very quickly this evil spirit escalates into dragging poor Betsy across the floor, up the stairs (on her back, no less…ow!) and around the rooms. It also alternately pins her to the bed and dangles her in the air while slapping her around. There are a lot of creaky old doors and floorboards in the Bell house too, plus very foggy nights outside, all lending themselves to the spooky atmosphere. And the spirit itself actually talks to the family and the friends they have called in for help! A cross goes flying, a bible spits pages into the air…the list goes on and on. I loved the special effects, even if they weren’t very imaginative.
As John’s health begins to fail, and his neighbor claims “there is no curse,” the family tries to “spirit away” Betsy to another location, thinking the evil spirit lives only in their home. WRONG! Boy does the spirit get mad this time! The incidents continue, growing more threatening each time. Eventually, though, the spirit is satisfied when it claims the one it is truly after!
- Top Scare: a couple dream sequences
- Heartbeats: 3 3/4 out of 5
- Gore Factor: 1 out of 5
- Suspense Factor: 4 out of 5
- Recommended for: 13 and up
Next up: Scream