An American Haunting DVD

Cast: Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, Rachel Hurd-Wood
Studio: Freestyle
Rating: 5/10

CORPORATE LINE: Based on true events that took place in Tennessee during the 1800s, An American Haunting tells the story of the only documented case in U.S. history (validated by the State of Tennessee) in which a spirit caused a person’s death. With over 20 books written on the subject, and a town that still lives in fear of the spirit’s return, the story of “An American Haunting” is terrifying. Between the years 1818-1820, the Bell Family of Red River, Tennessee was visited by an unknown presence that haunted the family and eventually caused the death of one of its members.

What started as small sounds around the farm and the sighting of a black, yellow-eyed wolf escalated into physical brutality against certain family members and general psychological and physical torment. The attacks grew in strength, with the spirit slapping, pulling, dragging, and even beating the Bells’ youngest daughter. Though no being could be seen, its effects were evident. It began to communicate with the family aurally, eventually through multiple voices that sounded like the wind. One message it communicated was a promise that one day it would kill one of the family members.

The Bells searched for rational explanations and ways to rid their house of the evil chimera, but its presence persisted. Fearing that the haunting was caused by a local woman who had been branded a witch, the Bells tried desperately to find ways of undoing what they thought to be the woman’s curse, presumably placed upon the family in retaliation for a land dispute. Despite their efforts the attacks escalated. It was not until a manuscript of the local schoolteacher, who lived on the property during the disturbance, was found in 1998 that the horrifying and shocking answer to what caused this haunting would finally be unveiled.


THE REVIEW: It’s always interesting to see a film that is “based on true events.” What isn’t said is they are loosely based on reality. A film could be based in the town and on ghosts and that is enough to be “based on true events” even though everything else is completely fabricated. So goes Hollywood movies.

An American Haunting starts spook and get progressively scarier. The movie is suspenseful and offers some scary sequences here and there. This won’t rank as the scariest film in the last six months; however it will make you jump. An American Haunting will remind viewers of Poltergeist. It’s a ghost movie that stays away from the blood and gore like Saw. Don’t let that fool you into believing the film isn’t scary. There are moments when you’ll be hold onto your seat.

THE EXTRAS: The video commentary by director Courtney Solomon is even harder to watch then a regularly boring audio commentary. Solomon sits in a box in the corner of the screen and talks about the movie as it plays. There is no real reason to watch Solomon talk other than to get distracted from the mess that is An American Haunting. And no, I’m not taking his comments about critics to heart because I don’t care.

There are some very dry alternative and deleted scenes. We get a short interview with director Courtney Solomon and actress Sissy Spacek. Finally, there is an internet promotions featurette to supposedly prove that the movie is based on a true story. This isn’t going to persuade anyone that An American Haunting is good.

FRANKLY: An American Haunting could have been better had it ended within the first sixty or so minutes. Once the movie leaps to present time it looses all its momentum and comes to an untimely end.

+ Charlie Craine

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