Ye Olde Entity
"An American Haunting" is the Double D of movies, disappointing and disturbing. It's disappointing firstly for being a horror which never once scared me and secondly because whilst based upon a true story it alters the facts quite drastically both historically as well as with an added modern element. That altering of the facts leads to the disturbing aspect of the movie which is also seriously confusing, there are explanations on the net to be found which clear up this confusion but don't help make it a better movie when you understand what is going on. So basically "An American Haunting" is a Ye Olde Horror which never really works and doesn't do the true story of the Bell Witch justice.
The year is 2006 and a mother discovers an old letter from 1817 which may explain why her daughter is suffering from nightmares. The letter tells the story of what happened to the Bell family who following a run in with local Kathe Batts (Gaye Brown) who some say is a witch find themselves under a curse as head of the family John Bell (Donald Sutherland - Fierce People) first encounters wolf like creatures and his daughter Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) gets attacked by an entity in her bedroom. Determined to find some logical explanation nothing they do seems to help as the curse takes its toll on John and Betsy as well as the rest of the Bell family.
When you sit down to watch "An American Haunting" my advice is to pay little attention to the opening set in the now and also the ending which brings us back to the present because they are weak and quite corny. What that means is that we have this horror story set in 1817 with the Bell household coming under some sort of curse as a spirit makes their life a misery. And so we watch as John is tormented by this spirit and his daughter Betsy suffers violent attacks which the family and friends witness, helpless to save her from this nightmare.
Now in fairness that doesn't sound too bad and it almost feels like we have a take on "The Entity" but one set in 1817. Unfortunately it just isn't scary or terrifying, the attacks as we see Betsy appear to be pinned down look violent as is a scene where she is held in the air by her hair and slapped senseless but it is just a case of violent and disturbing. Even those sudden moments which are meant to startle you, a door bangs, a window shatters never manage to make you jump and so you are left waiting for something more than just Betsy being physically abused.
Now of course part of what is the perverse fun of "An American Haunting" should be the explanation and we get early on the aspect of Kathe Batts cursing the family. Well let me just tell you there is an explanation, a blindingly disturbing and confusing one. In fact "An American Haunting" borders on so confusing that seeking an explanation online is needed and then when you find out what is what you are going to be even more disappointed.
What this all boils down to is that "An American Haunting" just doesn't do it for me. Not only was it not that scary but it was too confusing for its own good. The only truly positive which comes from watching it will be the fact you will probably want to know the true story of the Bell Witch, which is in fact interesting and scary.