Saturday, October 28, 2006

An American Haunting

I recall reading a lot about The Bell Witch during my childhood. I'd squirrel away in the attic or some other secret hide-away with a couple of new comics and a reference book about ghosts or the supernatural. And I loved the Bell Witch legend. It's a terrific ghost story complete with curses, poltergeist activity and even death caused by the ghost.

That's right, the Bell Witch is the only ghost in America that has a premeditated murder rap attributed to her.


An American Haunting, though, is an average film about an above-average legend. Starring Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek and Rachel Hurd-Wood, Haunting tells the story of how the Bell family--who lived in Tennessee circa 1820--was terrorized by a poltergeist. The poltergeist targets Betsey, primarily, while it systematically disturbs and confuses the family. It appears mostly at night, while Betsey sleeps alone in her bed, and physically assaults and tortures her.

And her parents seem powerless to help.

The terror seems to end, however, when the Bell Witch causes the death of one of the film's stars. It's then the audience realizes that the Bell family haunting is really caused by some deeply rooted, psychological trauma.

An American Haunting is not a great telling of what is, truly, a great ghost story. Skip the movie, and read about the Bell Witch instead.

2 comments:

Donutbuzz said...

I agree with you. American Haunting is one of the very few films I've seen in the theater this year, and it was a major disappointment. Sutherland and Spacek were great, but the story's treatment wasn't.

the goddess fontezz said...

Tried to tell you not to waste your time on this one, Geek. I grew up about 30 miles from Adams, TN - home of the Bell Family Farm. The Bell Witch was our local "haint". Legend had it if you stood in front of a mirror at midnight, put a flashlight under your chin, and chanted "I don't believe in the Bell Witch" that she'd appear in the mirror. I don't know anybody in our neck of the woods brave enough to try it... Anyway, "An American Haunting" doesn't come anywhere close to capturing the extordinary entity that the Bell Witch was. She/it was NOT a just a poltergeist,,,it spoke, caused items to materialize out of thin air, predicted the future, mimicked sermons precisely, among other things. This haunting is one of the most remarkable ever recorded - and was witness by a multitude of people over several years - including President Andrew Jackson. We locals are right proud of our "olde witche" and very disappointed that Hollywood sold out to the sordid theory when following the true accounts would have made a much better film.