Directed by Ric White [Other horror films: Nightmares from the Mind of Poe (2006)]
Before An American Haunting came onto the scene, the low-budget Bell Witch Haunting was released, which covered the same supposed supernatural event. A very low-budget film, Bell Witch Haunting isn’t entirely without merit, but it still really strains your patience, as it clocks in at just over two hours long, which is utterly unacceptable, especially given the content.
I have more than a few problems I have with the movie, and I really struggled to finish this one: among these problems, as I alluded to, is the ridiculously lengthy run-time, as Bell Witch Haunting is two hours and two minutes. If the story here had been perhaps more interesting or better written, that might well be excusable, but with the product we got, I don’t think it was at all necessary.
Another thing that really grated on me – there are little ‘section titles’ that pop up throughout the movie constantly, and none of them did the least bit to make the film better. The ghost of the entity really grated also, as she sounds like a bratty young teen girl. Not really my idea of spooky. Oh, and another thing – while the movie mostly takes the subject matter seriously, there are occasional smatterings of comedic scenes thrown in (including some 1820’s toilet humor), and I thought the movie could have done without that.
The aforementioned entity starts off innocently enough here, pulling sheets off beds, banging on the walls, pinching people when they’re trying to sleep, or telling people embarrassing secret information (like I said before, the voice of this entity is so damn annoying, but it did lead to the somewhat funny line ‘I will not allow this thing to question my character!’), but it gets worse as the movie goes on, with a few deaths and a rather sad scene at the end.
I’ll say this one positive thing about the movie – the death of Doug Moore’s character was pretty depressing. I didn’t care an ounce for most of these characters (partially because the Bell family is so big, it’s so hard to keep up with who’s who – seriously, I think there’s at least six children running around), but seeing the head of the family slowly lose his grip on life, and his final conversation with a long-time friend (played by director Ric White) was rather emotional, all my other issues with the movie aside.
Otherwise, the only other performance I cared for one way or the other was Amber Bland, who played the oldest daughter. She sort of loses prominence at different points throughout the movie, but she is one of the characters paid the most attention to (in fact, her birthday party, almost aborted due to the father’s recent excommunication from the church, was one of the more heartwarming scenes). Daniel Cooper, though, was more on the annoying side, playing an obnoxious, overweight younger brother, who’s catchphrase ‘Aw, ma’ got old after the second time. At least he provided us with one of the few solid scenes, involving quite a few tarantulas.
One thing I’ve neglected to touch much on is the low budget, and I want to be clear on this: yes, Bell Witch Haunting has a very low budget, but that is not at all reflective of my problems with it. Plenty of great low-budget horror movies exist, but they generally don’t have an overlong story that’s often none-to-exciting. Bell Witch Haunting was difficult to trudge through, and I suspect that most people who come across this one will leave with much the same opinion.