Back Shelf Beauties
An American Haunting
I was very excited to see the movie after hearing Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek star in An American Haunting, but excitement quickly faded and reality set in. As Rogers and Cowan, the public relations company hired by Freestyle Releasing to promote the movie and work with critics who wanted to review the film, started to evade requests to see the movie over a three week period preceding its release, I quickly realized An American Haunting was a stinker waiting to happen, and the studio probably knew it and wanted to minimize the damage as much as possible (that's an assumption based on 6 years of dealing with movie studio representatives). It's much easier for them to mislead you into spending your money on opening weekend than to make and release a good movie. I was more right than I ever feared, and I'm out $7 after seeing it in the theater on Friday afternoon. At least I went to see a matinee and saved a few dollars. If I had paid full price, I would have to haunt the Rogers and Cowan and Freestyle Releasing for all eternity.
An American Haunting starts in present day Red River, Tennessee as a young teen girl runs for her life from some unseen force with ill intent. We find out this young lady has been haunted by such incidents for some time, but her mother has found a diary from The Bell Family, who lived in the home in 1817, that might explain everything. As we flashback to the early 1800's, the audience learns John Bell (Donald Sutherland) had a financial dispute with a neighbor, who swore a curse on him and his beloved, beautiful and bright daughter, Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood). Soon, strange voices and bumps in the night escalate to violent attacks on Betsy and John.
Has The Bell Family been cursed with an evil spirit that will kill them all? Is there any hope of stopping it?
As a Lifetime Movie of the Week, An American Haunting might be passable, but it fails miserably as a major motion picture. The movie is being sold to audiences as the true story of the only recorded case in United States history of a spirit killing a living human being, but a fantastic investigation by Slate.com's Grady Hendrix reveals their claims to be a bunch of hooey used to prop up a boring and incomprehensible movie.
Writer/director Courtney Solomon seems to have limited resources, which leads her to use the same bag of tricks throughout An American Haunting until you are finally sick and tired of it. The camera goes flying across the house and across farmland in a valiant, but lame, attempt to make us feel as if we are seeing what the ghost sees as it terrorizes the family. The only people terrorized by this are those who have motion sickness. Then, we get the same tactics just mixed around each time the ghost appears and drags someone around, slaps them, throws the covers off the bed and whispers all sorts of less than scary dialogue. BORING!
Worst of all, Solomon continually tries to shock the audience by confusing the haunted person's dreams versus events that are actually supposed to be happening. It might provide a cheap shock the first time around, but three or four times of going to the same well wears thin and makes us question Solomon's competence to fill the movie with enough material to keep us interested the whole time. Finally, our writer/director tries to explain the happenings we have watched for the last hour and a half, but it is the worst, most oddball explanation you will ever see in a movie. No clues leading up to the revelation point to it as a possibility, which cheats the audience and betrays anyone who paid close attention. It's an OH MY GOD kind of revelation that makes you want to get your money back. Solomon can't even deliver this scene in a comprehensible way as the audience has to strain to figure out "the truth" and "the cause" when what should be the movie's most climactic scene becomes muddled. INCOMPREHENSIBLE!
Someone should call The Ghostbusters to make An American Haunting disappear from movie theaters like a ghost is expelled during an exorcism.
0 Waffles (Out of 4)
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