Sunday, September 20, 2009

Horror Movie Review: An American Haunting

An American Haunting

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, James D'arcy, and Rachel Hurd-Wood

Directed by: Courtney Solomon

Written by: Courtney Solomon based on a novel by Brent Monahan

Production Companies: Allan Zeman Productions, Midsummer Films, Remstar Productions, Media Pro Pictures, After Dark Films, Redbus Pictures, Sweetpea Entertainment

The way I figure it, ghost stories were probably the first supernatural horror stories told. I'm sure the ghost story was probably predated by the tale of a primitive man riding back to his cave on a wooly mammoth when he heard the mammoth let out a yell. He thought that peculiar but rode on. Every so often, however, he would hear his massive ride yell out. When he finally got home, he climbed down off of his steed to discover, dangling in a mammoth hock...a saber tooth! AAAAHHHHH.... But after such primitive, slightly realistic urban legends came the supernatural tales, let's watch...

[wind blowing outside]
Gronk: Thog! What was that!?!

Thog: What was what?
Gronk: Listen...
Wind: [whooooooo]
Gronk: What was that!?!
Thog: Oh no...It's Oot!
Gronk: What!?! But Oot died last week hunting sabretooths.
Thog: Sabreteeth...but it must be his ghost!
Gronk: Ghost? You just made that word up...
Thog: True, and last week I made up "wheel". We have to call the return of a dead caveman without his body something. So...ghost!
Wind: [whoooooooo]
Gronk: What does he want!?!
Thog: Seriously, quit with the unnecessary exclamation points and question marks...But clearly he wants to get vengeance on he whom Oot had to replace in the hunting party because he was "sick". "Sick" with his wife Oolah. Gronk, he's come for YOU!


Ghost stories have come along way since then, but there are still some similarities. An American Haunting delivers the same basic formula. John Bell finds himself in court against Kathe Batts over a land dispute. Bell is fouond guilty of overcharging rent, but Batts, suspected of being a witch, is not satisfied with the settlement.

Soon, Bell's beloved daughter, Betsy, finds herself the target of an angry spirit. At first Bell thinks Batts has sent a slave to harass the girl, but as the attacks worsen with no sign of a physical attacker and Betsy gets worse seeing things, not sleeping, and even being possessed, the Bells have to accept that it's not a man attacking the girl, but a vengeful spirit.

Add a mysterious, savage dog/wolf that comes in the night, and you have a pretty standard ghost story with decent haunts and chills. But, unfortunately, rather than sticking with the ghost, the ending shows that the cause of the strange happenings are a little more down to earth, more or less. The mundane explanation does not provide the Shyamalan that may have been the goal, but rather leaves more questions that spoil the movie.

The tale of the Bell ghost is framed with a modern day mother/daughter family living in the Bell house. Strange things are happening again and a book is discovered giving us Lucy Bell's trials. The account lets the mother realize what's going on with her daughter because, coincidentally, the same is happening. While the framing of the Bell haunting does show that, unfortunately, some things don't ever seem to change, what we wanted was a good ghost story, not a commentary.

Related Videos


Donald Sutherland has been in many horrors thoughout his impressive career, but he's not a genre actor getting roles in everything from dramas to comedies as well. His most recent horror film prior to this ghost tale was 1999's Virus costaqrring with Jamie Lee Curtis and William Baldwin. When the crew of an American tugboat boards an abandoned Russian research vessel, the alien life form aboard regards them as a virus which must be destroyed.

The Ring Two

Sissy Spacek isn't as familiar to the horror genre, but occasionally takes a dive into fear. In 2005, Spacek was seen in The Ring Two with Naomi Watts. Six months after the incidents involving the lethal videotape, new clues prove that there is a new evil lurking in the darkness.

Rise: Blood Hunter

James D'arcy plays a villain in Rise: Blood Hunter with Lucy Liu. A female reporter wakes up in a morgue to find herself a member of the undead. She vows revenge against the cult that put her there and hunts them down.


Brent Monahan had another novel, Death Bite (cowritten by Michael Maryk), put on the big screen as Spasms starring Peter Fonda. A gigantic serpent is captured on a remote island and shipped to an American college for experimentation. A British millionaire and an American scientist find themselves in hot pursuit of the beast when it escapes from captivity and starts to kill innocent people.

No comments: