An American Haunting

Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek headline this disturbing tale of death from director Courteny Solomon, using a script she adapted from Brent Monahan’s book.

An American Haunting

An American Haunting

The story goes thus: A teenager, Betsy Bell, living in Tennesseein 1818, is suffering from recurrent nightmares, the prelude to a full on haunting. Arising form a land dispute, it transpires that her father, John Bell has been cursed by a vengeful witch, Kathy Batts. The haunting begins to get worse with Betsy undergoing the full possession. John and several of his supporters, family and friends try unsuccessfully to exorcise the spirit but then, just when they have given up all hope, it suddenly reveals the real reason for it’s presence.

Though well plotted and suspenseful, the greatest stand out of this movie is the actors, all of whom really rise to the challenge and give some quite magnificent performances. Sutherland is, of course riveting from the moment he appears and it’s well cast enough to give him excellent support, making the retelling of this true story all the more believable and compelling. By all accounts, the script does fictionalise the event quite a bit, especially towards the climax but that is forgivable as it’s well told and dramatic enough to hold everyone’s attention. Plot wise, the scares are predictable but none the less effective for that, well shot, well played and delivering, every time. The direction is as excellent as the actors, working in tandem with them to tell the story and backed up by some beautiful and at times haunting cinematography.

Donald Sutherland and Rachel Hurd-Wood in An American Haunting

Donald Sutherland and Rachel Hurd-Wood in An American Haunting

The only real problem with it is the very end which seems a little tacked on and confusing. All the information is there if you look, but it is not as easily spelled out as in the rest of the movie, leading the viewer to wonder if there was originally a different ending that didn’t go down well with preview audiences and was therefore re shot. It’s not that it’s a bad ending as such, it just somehow feels as if it came from a different movie and is out of place here. Nevertheless, it doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of what is an otherwise excellent and suspenseful thriller, and of course, anything starring Donald Sutherland is going to be worth watching.

Director: Courtney Solomon
Stars: Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek and Rachel Hurd-Wood
Release Date: 14 April 2006 (UK)
Country: USA

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