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2006-05-15 22:55:05 (link)
"An American Haunting" - Great Only if You Have "Daddy Issues"

I thought "An American Haunting" had the potential to be very scary. It has a good marketing hook -- a film about the only documented case in U.S. history where a spirit killed a man. Sounds very spooky, right? Well, it wasn't. The movie was unnecessary and contrived... and this is coming from someone who cried during "The Grudge," so my standards for horror movies are very low.

We're first introduced to Sissy Spacek, who lives in an old house with her teenage daughter (Rachel Hurd-Wood). Her daughter finds an old manuscript in the attic that details their "family secret." And the rest of the film flips between present day and the early 1800s as Sissy reads the account of the Bell Family Haunting.

So we're brought to the early 1800s where John Bell (Donald Sutherland) and his family are publicly chastised by the Church after swindling a mean old lady out of some cash. They lose "their good name" and the mean hag curses John and his pretty daughter, Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood). Soon after, weird shit starts happening to Betsy. A spirit, or something, smacks the crap out of her every night and the family hunkers down at home (the spirit won't let them leave) and tries to exorcise the demon. There are some genuinely scary moments in the middle of the movie as John also becomes a target of a the spirit, in addition to his daughter.

Then the director and writer Courtney Solomon tries to explain why Betsy and John are being beaten so mercilessly by the poltergeist. This is where the film went belly up. I'm just going to tell you what the spirit's apparent motive was because no one should see this movie anyway. It turns out that John Bell, a seemingly moral guy, was raping the hell out of his daughter and the ensuing emotional disturbance somehow conjured a poltergeist that not only beat the shit out of her, but eventually killed John.

This is baffling. Why would the angry spirit, whose origin is the abused girl, continue hurting her? Maybe I don't fully understand the nature of poltergeists, and maybe I could forgive such an illogical plot twist... but then Ms. Solomon really drove the whole sexual-abuse theme home in the ending scenes.

At the end of the film, present-day Sissy Spacek, who now knows the "family secret," is helping her daughter get ready for a weekend with her father. As her ex-husband pulls out of the driveway, precious daughter in tow, Sissy sees the ghost of Betsy Bell! Which means: OMGZ HER EXHUSBAND IS RAPING THEIR DAUGHTER JUST LIKE JOHN BELL RAPED HIS DAUGHTER! :O She consequently runs down the driveway, yelling. End film.

What a terrible, terrible, terrible way to resolve a movie; poorly done and unnecessary.

by Kristin V. Johnson


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