An American Haunting
|An American Haunting|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Courtney Solomon|
|Produced by||Courtney Solomon
|Screenplay by||Courtney Solomon|
|Based on||The Bell Witch: An American Haunting
by Brent Monahan
|Music by||Caine Davidson|
|Editing by||Richard Comeau|
|Studio||After Dark Films
SC MediaPro Pictures SA
|Distributed by||Redbus Film Distribution (UK)
Odeon Films (Canada)
Freestyle Releasing (US)
|Running time||90 minutes|
An American Haunting is a 2005 horror film written and directed by Courtney Solomon. It stars Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, James D'Arcy, and Rachel Hurd-Wood. The film was previewed at the AFI Film Festival on November 5, 2005 and was released in the UK on April 14, 2006 with follow-up in US theaters on May 5. The film is an international co-production between the United Kingdom, Canada, Romania, and the United States.
The film is based on the novel The Bell Witch: An American Haunting, by Brent Monahan. The events in the novel are based on the legend of the Bell Witch. The film switches from the 21st century to the 19th, and features a subplot about a recently divorced mother (Spacek) whose daughter (Hurd-Wood) is going through something like the same experience as Betsy Bell.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (August 2013)|
In present times, a young girl is having a dream about something unseen through the forest and her house. Her mother finds an old binder of letters from the 19th century, as well as an old doll that her daughter found in the attic. The letters are from a previous occupant of the house, warning the mother that if she is reading the letters, and noticing supernatural happenings, then the unthinkable has come to pass. The film then switches to the early 19th century, to a village that used to stand around the house, and the story of the Bell Witch is told.
John Bell is taken to church court, having been accused of stealing a woman's land. The church finds him guilty of charging her too much interest, but lets him go because "the loss of his good name is punishment enough". The offended woman, Kate Batts, who is infamous in the village over claims of witchcraft, tells him to enjoy his good health and the health of his family while he can, meaning ill to he and his "precious daughter".
Soon after that, strange things start happening. John Bell sees a rabid black wolf that keeps disappearing, and his youngest daughter, Betsy, hears noises in her room, as if someone was in it. She then has terrible nightmares about a little girl in a red dress and an evil entity that always comes into her bedroom after everyone else is asleep. At first, everyone thinks they are just nightmares but then the family sees Betsy suspended above the floor by unseen hands, and watch as something seems to slap her across the face. John believes that Batts has cursed him.
Betsy starts to look very sick in class, and her schoolmaster, Professor Richard Powell, who has a latent romantic interest in her, notices. He learns of what the Bells have been experiencing, and as an educated man, initially tries to justify the incidents with reality, and tries to convince them that what they saw was their illusion. He offers to stay the night at their house to dispel their fears. The haunting gets worse, and chairs, books, and people are pulled around by some entity. As they try to read from the Bible to scare it off, the Bible is thrown to the ground and the pages are ripped out.
Soon the family finds blood on Betsy's dresses in the morning – it appears to be blood due to the loss of her virginity. Betsy is dragged around the house, and the spirit rapes her at one point. John Bell begins to get sick, and sees ghosts as well. The mother begs Professor Powell to marry her daughter and take her away to live with him. He says that although he is smitten with Betsy, he cannot marry her just to protect her. John begins to go insane, and goes to Batts' house, asking her to kill him. She tells him, "I didn't curse you, you cursed yourself", and does not kill him. John stumbles into the forest, falls to his knees, holds the gun to his head, and pulls the trigger. The hammer clicks, but the gun doesn't fire.
Betsy finally has a revelation: the attacks on her and her father are caused by a supernatural being who was born out of her innocence (i.e. herself), and the reason for them was for her to "remember". She needed to remember that the true cause of her pain was that her father has sexually abused her. Lucy, Betsy's mother, has the same revelation, as she had witnessed the assault herself. Both had apparently repressed the incident.
John is coughing in bed, and a girl's hand is seen pouring cough medicine into a spoon and bringing it to his mouth. He takes the medicine, chokes and then dies. The girl who gave him the medicine is Betsy; her mother is watching as Betsy poisons her father. Betsy is then seen at her father's grave, and the narrator says that Betsy was never haunted from that point forward.
The story then returns to present day, where the young girl's mother has been reading the journal. An old photograph that appears to be a wedding portrait of Richard Powell and Betsy is shown on a shelf. As she finishes reading, her daughter comes to her, saying that her father (who is divorced from her mother) has come to take her for a weekend stay with him. She sends her daughter to her ex-husband, who is waiting outside. Returning to her house, Betsy's apparition suddenly appears in front of her and cries "Help her!" then disappears. Shocked for a couple of seconds, the mother suddenly realizes that Betsy is trying to warn her that something is amiss between her daughter and her ex-husband.
Instantly, she runs out of her house, only to catch a glimpse of her daughter's worried face as she and her father drive away in his car; it thus implied that the father has already started sexually abusing her. The film ends with the mother running after the father's car.
- Donald Sutherland as John Bell
- Sissy Spacek as Lucy Bell
- James D'Arcy as Richard Powell
- Rachel Hurd-Wood as Betsy Bell / Entity Voice
- Matthew Marsh as James Johnston
- Thom Fell as John Bell, Jr.
- Zoe Thorne as Theny Thorn
- Gaye Brown as Kate Batts
- Sam Alexander as Joshua Gardner
- Miquel Brown as Chloe
An American Haunting was panned by critics, holding a 38/100 rating on Metacritic, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Rotten Tomatoes reports a 12% rating from 68 reviews; the consensus states: "Well, it looks good. But wasn't it supposed to be scary?"
- "AN AMERICAN HAUNTING (15)". Redbus Film Distribution. British Board of Film Classification. November 25, 2005. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
- "An American Haunting (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- An American Haunting Reviews, Ratings, Credits. Metacritic. Retrieved 2010-11-21.
- An American Haunting Movie Reviews, Pictures. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-11-21.
- An American Haunting at the Internet Movie Database
- An American Haunting at Box Office Mojo
- An American Haunting at Rotten Tomatoes
- An American Haunting at Metacritic
- An American Haunting on Myspace