Labeled by some as “America’s Greatest Ghost Story,” the legendary Bell Witch gets herself another movie (other Bell Witch movies are “Bell Witch Haunting” and “Bell Witch the Movie”) and the result is far from America’s Greatest Ghost Movie.
From the little that I know of the 200 year legend of the Bell Witch, “An American Haunting” sticks to the basic facts, at least. In the 1800s, the Bell family household in rural Tennessee was subject to some kind of curse, a haunting if you will, that started slowly with weird noises around the house and then escalated into certain family members being dragged out of bed and physically abused by an unseen force, right before the eyes of the rest of the family and other eyewitnesses unfortunate enough to find themselves caught in the middle of this supernatural domestic abuser, eventually leading to someone’s death. This is said to be the only case where the U.S. government has held supernatural forces responsible for a man’s death.
So, all of that makes it into the movie intact, as well as many of the legend’s main characters. I’ll go back to the legend in a little bit, right now I want to talk about the actual movie, which, unfortunately, wasn’t very scary at all. In fact, repetition is the name of the game here. Again someone is levitated and smacked around. Again a window explodes. Again a spooky little girl is standing in the corner. Again the furniture starts sliding around the living room. Again and again and again. It’s the same old, same old for a good ninety minutes. I would think that the only people who would find this movie “terrifying” would be people who haven’t seen a haunted house movie before. Those people may mess themselves while watching “An American Haunting.” The rest of us, we’ve seen this all before, many, many times, with more impact, with better, more involving characters. Here, it’s a bunch of people reacting to the same scary situations over and over again. It’s exhausting how boring this movie is…
And now, back to a bit of the legend, but first, a disclaimer: I’m going to touch on how the movie ends, so if you don’t want to know, DON’T READ ANY FURTHER.
So, this ghost, witch, whatever it is, tormented the entire Bell family, but it focused more of the brutal treatment on head of the household John Bell and his teenage daughter Betsy. There are many theories out there on this and the filmmaker decided to run with one of the most popular and that is that John Bell used to abuse his daughter and it was the repressed psychokinetic energy built up in Betsy due to all of her emotional trauma that conjured the entity that plagued the family. Once you realize this is what’s going on, you’re just disappointed. Even though this theory has been around for a while, it still reeks of a typically dull movie twist. So you not only have a none too thrilling horror movie on your hands, but then it’s all wrapped up with a lame twist. Simply put, “An American Haunting” is a dull waste of time.