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  Publicity Stills of "An American Haunting"
(Courtesy from GVP)

Genre: Horror
Director: Courtney Solomon
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, Rachel Hurd-Wood and James D’Arcy
RunTime: 1 hr 23 mins
Released By: GVP
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.anamericanhauntingonline.com/

Opening Day: 17 August 2006

Synopsis :

Between the years 1818 – 1820, the Bell Family of Red River, Tennessee was visited by an unknown presence that haunted the family and eventually ended up causing the death of one its members. The Bells searched for rational explanations and ways to rid their house of this entity, but to no avail as the spirit began to communicate with them through sounds, and eventually multiple voices that sounded like the wind. Fearing that the haunting was caused by a local woman had put a curse upon the family as a result of a land dispute, the Bells tried desperately to find ways of getting rid of the woman's curse, yet the attacks and disturbances only escalated.

Movie Review:

An American Haunting director Courtney Solomon seemed to have another stinker on his hand, after his disastrous start with trying to adapt the fantasy role playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Here, he moves toward trying to explain the phenomenon behind poltergeists, but fails miserably with the constant use of recycled horror movie cliches.

Even the casting of veterans like Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek amongst relative new faces cannot help to keep this horror movie from boring audiences. Hardly anyone jumped at the creaky doors, moving blankets, the running around of footsteps testing the surround sound capabilities of the theatre, the whispering of names, the images in mirrors, the ghastly kid, fast moving shadows, the hounds from hell, the unimaginative list just goes on.

While the movie tries to present itself as a psychological thriller at times with its use of surreal imagery, it just frustrates audiences with the repetitive oh-this-is-all-in-your-imagination sequences of waking up from (day)dreams, and insults the audience with its half-baked attempts at the suggestion of witchcraft, or the gimmicky plot twist at the end. Most viewers who have watched enough horror flicks will be able to decipher the unexplained happenings, putting two and two together and predicting the conclusion from the mid point of the movie.

And not to forget, while crafting the movie's ending, it's done in so slipshod a manner, that it left huge plot holes wide enough for the devil's chariot to ride through. Granted that the movie doesn't suggest exorcism, there were some vague rites performed by this staunchly Christian family/community that seemed to demonstrate a disturbing lack of Faith in trying to deal with the supernatural, or in their attempts to try and call out for God's help.

Set during the 19th century, the sets and costumes are beautifully created though, but then again you don't get to see more than what happens in the Bell family home, given that most of the scenes hovers around the haunting of their daughter Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood). While there is a man of God and a man of Science who both helped the Bell family in explaining and tackling these strange situations, the true horror always lie within, and there is a deep dark secret which will reveal itself. But in doing so, it greatly undermines what was set up all these while, and will leave you wondering about the blatant logic issues (even though it's about spirits) and plot holes in the narrative.

I guess it may be a while before anyone attempts to make another movie about ghostly possessions in a female body. Linda Blair set the bar in The Exorcist back in the 70s, and Jennifer Carpenter provided commendable effort and tried extremely hard to contort her body to match those standards recently in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Here, the unearthly effects were glossed over too fast, but in general, the special effects were still reasonable, and that's just about the best part of this movie.

It makes perfect sense for a movie such as this to be released during the Lunar Seventh Month to ride on the mood of the supernatural, but if you're expecting a horror gem, then you will probably be disappointed. It might tout itself as being based on true events to draw the crowds in, but this is Hollywood after all - any event will be dramatically exaggerated.

Movie Rating:

(Great potential lost by the overt use of cliches, which brought the movie down to a level of mediocrity)

Review by Stefan Shih


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