Wednesday, November 01, 2006

DVD: An American Haunting

• The Bell Witch Project gets lost in the woods.

Genre: Horror, period piece
DVD released: Oct. 24, 2006
Director: Courtney Solomon
Cast: Donald Sutherland, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Sissy Spacek, James D'Arcy, Matthew Marsh
Verdict: &&1/2

There's a decent horror movie lurking within The Bell Witch Project, a loosely fact-based tale that can't quite cast its spell. Trouble begins for the Bell family after patriarch John Bell (Donald Sutherland) is accused of usury and threatened by the victim, a woman commonly believed to be a witch in early 1800s Tennessee. Soon, a menacing wolf appears, the family hears noises, and daughter Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is tormented by an unseen entity who slaps her around and drags her up the stairs. As the disturbances escalate, John Bell becomes ill and tormented, and Betsy's schoolteacher takes a skeptical and slightly romantic interest in the happenings. Along the way are a number of clues to a dark family secret that is bubbling just beneath the surface and apparently instigating the horror. When it is revealed in a rather abrupt conclusion, it also turns out to be a fairly uninteresting and muddled (and historically inaccurate, some say) end to a movie that gets by surprisingly well in its first 90 percent on fairly standard horror conventions. // DVD notes // Puzzled by the ending? Four (!) alternate endings are equally muddled, but watching them helped me understand part of the ending that I didn't get on first viewing. The disc also includes deleted scenes, an interview with horror maven Spacek and a pretty good Dolby Digital EX soundtrack.

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