HomeMovie ReviewsAn American Haunting: ‘True Story’ Told in Cliched Horror Movie Fashion

An American Haunting: ‘True Story’ Told in Cliched Horror Movie Fashion

‘An American Haunting’: ‘True story’ told in unconvincing fashion

Filmed in Canada and Romania – the latter country passing for the early 19th-century rural American South – Courtney Solomon’s disappointing An American Haunting, a “true story” about a series of ghostly apparitions, fails to make good use of its intriguing premise. Collectively known as the Bell Witch, the apparitions scare the wits out of the genteel Bell family of Red River, Tennessee, with particular emphasis on the Bells’ adolescent daughter, Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood).

Initially, small noises are heard around their farm. These are followed by several creepy sights: a black wolf with yellow eyes; a strange figure that is seen at night; and a silent, dark girl who continually tries to approach Bell. As time passes, the Poltergeist-like attacks become louder and more violent – with the unlucky Betsy as their most viciously abused victim.

Ghostly curse

Schoolteacher Richard Powell (James D’Arcy) is called in to help, but neither his scientific knowledge nor his infatuation with the much younger Betsy can prevent the apparitions from returning and wreak even worse havoc. Despite repeated attempts to communicate with the ghostly presence(s), the Bells are told only that one of them will be killed.

Patriarch John Bell (Donald Sutherland) believes the ghosts are the result of a curse inflicted upon the family by a woman with whom he had had a land dispute. John’s submissive wife, Lucy (Sissy Spacek), is also concerned for their safety, but there’s little she can do.

Eventually, little pieces start falling into place to reveal who is behind the apparitions – and why.

‘An American Haunting’ trailer.

‘An American Haunting’: Technical proficiency not enough to compensate for weak screenplay

This haunted house – or rather, haunted estate – film offers the usual spooky moments (in large part accomplished by way of loud sound effects), eerie cinematography (courtesy of the late Adrian Biddle), some competent acting (courtesy of Sissy Spacek, the only American in the cast due to financing restrictions imposed by the film’s British-Canadian backers), and several effective directorial touches by Courtney Solomon – including a masterfully directed and edited (by Richard Comeau) horse-carriage crash.

On the downside, An American Haunting is irreparably marred by a superfluous – and quite silly – wrap-around modern-day story that is supposed to mirror the Bells’ “curse,” and by Solomon’s unfocused screenplay (adapted from a novel by Brent Monahan). Although the writer-director strives to add some real drama to the Halloween proceedings, he spends considerably more time copying shocking scenes from The Exorcist than creating real characters with compelling interpersonal issues.

The final plot revelation comes too late to inject An American Haunting with the sort of psychological undercurrent that propelled to a higher cinematic realm both Jack Clayton’s The Innocents and Robert Wise’s The Haunting.

Spiritual murder

By the way, the Bell Witch apparitions were recorded between 1817 and 1821. According to An American Haunting‘s production notes, they were “validated by the State of Tennessee as the only case in U.S. history where a spirit or entity caused the death of a human being.”

An American Haunting was reviewed at the AFI FEST 2005.

An American Haunting (2006).
Director: Courtney Solomon.
Screenplay: Courtney Solomon. From Brent Monahan’s book.
Cast: Donald Sutherland. Sissy Spacek. James D’Arcy. Rachel Hurd-Wood. Matthew Marsh. Thom Fell. Zoe Thorne.

An American Haunting cast info via the IMDb.

Donald Sutherland and Rachel Hurd-Wood An American Haunting trailer and image: Allan Zeman Productions / Freestyle Releasing.


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hp -

so like when the hauntings accured why is it that everyone desides to remain so quiet about it , us rednecks like a little action and thats also what we expect and that haunting to me sounds pretty low down to the red clay FAKE!!!

cha -

,.hi!!i just watched peter pan awhile ago.then i become addicted to it that’s why i’m surfing the internet all about peter pan..i really like the part when you kissed peter!!GOSH..I PLAYED IT SLOWMO AND I KEEP ON REPEATING THAT PART!!peter’s smile is amazing and really seductive!!

lavinia -

hi!i`m Lavinia and i live in Romania.What was it like kissing Jeremy Sumpter??? you are a very pretty girl,and an amazing actress.good lock!!

DeNi U-Gu-Ku Dannie -

Thought U mite wanna know the reason of the haunting … which can be found on my website at Bebo .. See Blog … See Polls … See Videos …

See also my old website … the url can be found in my profile at bebo …

I am the direct descendent of Aiyana … Daughter of the Sun .. Daughter of Doublehead ..

There r also John Bells family of the 1700s living in southern Kentucky at what is still called today .. the Bell Farm … one of John Bells descendents married children of Aiyana …

just thought u mite wanna know the reason why it all occured … and of the letter .. the letter is true … and for a reason …


rednay -

i love jeremy sumpter

Anja -

Hi Mr. Solomon,

My name is Anja i live in Germany and i would like to a actress in your next Fantasy movi… If you have any further questions do not hesitate me please I would be grateful

I look forward to hearing from you soon

Bye Bye


diana -

What was it like kissing Jeremy Sumpter? He is pretty cute don’t you think?
Any way i hope you reply that would be wicked.
Do you like peter pan(jeremy)

Courtney Nicholas-Murphy -

Hey Rachel! you were awsome in Peter Pan and you know what? as in i’m writing this i am watching Peter Pan. And next time you are in a movie can you get me a part? What was it like kissing Jeremy Sumpter? He is pretty cute don’t you think?
Any way i hope you reply that would be wicked.

Cya xx


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