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An American Haunting (Unrated Edition)
An American Haunting
Unrated Edition
Actors: Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, Rachel Hurd-Wood, James D'Arcy, Matthew Marsh
Director: Courtney Solomon
Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
PG-13     2006     1hr 23min

In 1818, the family began to experience disturbances on their property. At first, slight, unexplained noises, but the spirit began to grow, becoming aggressive and singling out the father, John, and his only daughter Betsy...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, Rachel Hurd-Wood, James D'Arcy, Matthew Marsh
Director: Courtney Solomon
Creators: Courtney Solomon, Alessandro Fracassi, Allan Zeman, Andrei Boncea, André Rouleau, Christopher Milburn, Brent Monahan
Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Lionsgate
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 10/24/2006
Original Release Date: 05/05/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 05/05/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 23min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 16
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
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Member Movie Reviews

Nikki H. (Tinyavenger)
Reviewed on 6/4/2010...
I was very excited to see this movie having read a few books regarding the Bell Witch haunting and I ended up being extremely disappointed. The Bell Witch haunting is such a well-known gripping story and so much could have been done with it. Instead I found myself hoping it would get better throughout most of the film. Also, while I can certainly understand writers/director taking certain liberties when they are basing a movie of a true story, they should have stuck closer to the books. A malevolent spirit torturing a family (and guests) for decades would have made for a much more thrilling movie than what this story was re-worked into. They also decide to give this film a 'twist' ending. You start to see it coming and are hoping they really are not going to go down that path. They did. It was horrible and leave you thinking "What the heck"?. (Actually what I was thinking involved more colorful words that aren't appropriate for this review :-)!!)
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Cara F. (dichten) from PRT WASHINGTN, WI
Reviewed on 11/18/2009...
While the theory posed in this film is interesting, this theory does nothing to truly explain the Bell Witch activity going on today -- some 200 years later (though it tries, it really does). And no matter how interesting this theory is, it cannot save the previous hour and ten minutes one had to sit through in order to get to this theory. And even then

After some horrid, teenage goth font-ed opening credits, we are brought to a forest in 2006 where a teenage girl is running from some unseen force. She races into her house, then into her bedroom where she bars herself in with a shoddy-looking hasp lock. Things quiet down and we presume she is safe, until -- dum dum du-um -- the bad CGI of a ghost girl hovers in the mirror beside this living teenager.

We are we even in 2006? Didn't the whole Bell Witch thing happen a long time ago?

We are in 2006 because we have to be introduced to this girl and her mother. Mom seems fed up with the daughter, learning that she has gone into the forbidden attic and stolen a diary.

Through this diary we are taken back to 1818 and the Bell family. Ha. Ingenious, right?

The film jumps back and forth between the Bell haunting and the mother reading the diary. On more than one occasion the 2006 mother looks at what appears to be an old wedding photograph between Betsy Bell and her teacher.

All in all, this movie is horribly milquetoast. Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland (the two actors I thought would carry this movie) seem if they were suppressed to the point of drowning.

Granted, there are a few scenes which made me jump -- but not so strongly to make me watch this movie again.

My advice: read a book about the Bell Witch (there are quite a few out there) instead of watching this movie. The books will surely spook you more thoroughly.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Brad S. (Snibot) from DALLAS, TX
Reviewed on 11/17/2009...
I liked it, then it ended, and I thought "I sat through this movie for this?" It was well written, fantastically acted, the soundtrack was fitting, and the wardrobe and setting, really sold the movie, it was really quite interesting. The ending just killed this movie, it made no sense as it came out of left field, actually it came from a different field. Anyway, worth watching once, but I can't see myself sitting through it again.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Aimee S. (Ariadnae) from SCOTTOWN, OH
Reviewed on 11/21/2008...
I found this to be interesting film, perhaps since I have had a great interest in the Bell Witch for some time. I found myself intrigued by the treatment of the ending, one of many theories concerning the origins of the Bell Witch. Special effects are good, character development could have been a little more detailed. A good, but not a great, film.
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Certainly better than popular opinion would have you believe
Review Lover | At a place... | 07/07/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"John Bell (Donald Sutherland), convicted of Usury, is plagued by a vengeful poltergeist who seems to focus on his beloved only daughter Betsy. All fingers point to the town witch, of whom Bell has made an enemy, but could the real culprit be someone closer to home?

The Bell Witch legend isn't something I am familiar with, so when I sat down to watch this movie, I saw simply a movie, and not an iterpretation of historical fact. In a sense, I think it's better that I knew nothing about the legend (which is, now that I've read a little about it, extremely interesting) beforehand, since I'm able to judge the movie as a movie in its own right.

And you know what? It's actually not that bad.

Performances, despite the titanic talents of Sutherland and Sissy Spacek as his wife Lucy, manage to be a little mundane - not bad, just not particularly memorable. The dialogue is pretty stop-startish, too: some sentences are so pretentious as to be nauseating, but for the most part, it's not too bad.

Direction and cinematography are hugely effective: Courtney Solomon and Adrian Biddle make a formidable team, and in one hugely important area, "An American Haunting" succeeds where 99% of all modern American horror movies fail miserably: visually, it's very engaging, very stylish and very satisfying to look at. THANKFULLY, special effects are kept to a bare minimum and the fear factor is magnified because of this - the suggestiveness of the visuals creates more fear than the actual onscreen events.

The audio is excellent, too, and it's very refreshing to find a movie that uses sound effects in such a complimentary way.

So with pretty average performances, an extremely interesting premise and some beautiful and accomplished direction and audio-visuals, why does "An American Haunting" only receive three stars? The problem here is the pacing: this is a very short movie (under ninety minutes) and, because of this insane brevity, we can't form much of an attachment to any of the characters. The action comes thick and fast, but when we don't really know the characters of John Bell, Betsy or Lucy, we can't help but not feel much for their misfortunes. Comparable movies of recent years would be "The Sixth Sense" and "The Others" - but the slow pace of those movies, as well as stronger scripting, helped us to form a real attachment to the characters therein - which is definitely a problem with "An American Haunting".

Still, it's a great-looking, great-sounding film that is, in places, very engaging. It's definitely a recommendation for rental, but not for purchase: once is enough, you'd be better off researching the actual legend if you want some powerful scares."
An American Mess
TRFB | 08/10/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Terribly put together, this movie doesn't deliver in any area. The only jumps I experienced was the synchronized music with the hand-out-of-no-where-on-the-shoulder routine. I won't spoil the movie in case you do decide to rent it, just don't buy it. However, I'll tell you why I didn't like it. The direction of the movie was extremely disjointed. Most of the time you are thrown around in flashbacks, and flashforwards, that you get lost. You wonder, "Now, did that just happen? Or is it going to happen? Or is it happening?" When you wonder through the film like that, it's pretty frustrating.

The acting was great. The actors portrayed their characters very well. It's just the story AND the directing and editing.

The end of the story and the real reason why this is all happening to them is such a let down. The bad part is they don't reveal what's happening until the very, very end and by that time you have already wasted 75 minutes of an 80 minute movie!!! What a rip off.

If you like movies about hauntings and how it's linked to a story, I HIGHLY recommend "The Changeling" with George C. Scott. It's an old movie. I think in the 70's or 80's, but, it's a MUCH better film than this one. I recommend you DON'T buy this movie, but if you must see it. See it for free on cable. Don't waste your money."
It was ...... OK
Kevin Stanton | Pittsburgh | 10/31/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"William Hancock's review gives excellent reasoning as to the downfalls of this movie so I will not go into any of that here. Suffice to say, this is a work of fiction, influenced by 'true events'.
That being said, I gave this movie 3 stars because I felt it had some merit. Sutherland and Spacek are both strong actors. The roles they play here are the parent roles which I felt the acted out well. I was a bit miffed at the language use in this movie though. I don't believe they used the same words and/or phrases that we use today, which is what took place here. Maybe the producer wanted to make the movie more palatable to the current movie watcher? Not sure. But the actual story wasn't followed, so why should the verbage be any different?
What doesn't make sense here is that 'Betsy' was terrorized by the ghost first. Physically abused. The ending suggests that the 'ghost' and 'curse' were a result of her abuse by her father. If that were the case, why would she suffer the wrath of the haunting? Doesn't make sense.
The final ending also leads one to believe that a sequel is on the way. I certainly hope not. I do like a good ghost story, however I don't consider this to be one of them... way too many flaws. I would hate to see them continue this saga for gratuitous measures only.
There are much much better ghost stories out there that will give true chills. 'The Haunting'(original version), 'The Others' and 'The Changeling' are three top notch ghost stories. One would think with so much stellar quality scripts and such out there that hollywood would take heed and produce something really, truly scary.
Good qualities of the movie are that the filming is good for the most part. (They really need to stop using the quick frame and change to black and white and back to color technique... really overdone). The sets look great as do the costumes. The acting was very good although they had a weak script to work with.
Three stars all in all... but mostly because I think they churned this one out to be in time for halloween... not because they were serious."