An American Haunting

2006

An American Haunting

Critics Consensus

Well, it looks good. But wasn't it supposed to be scary?

13%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 69

36%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 89,092
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An American Haunting Photos

Movie Info

The wind whispers ominous warnings of death before a malevolent entity arrives to claim the life of a young girl as director Courtney Solomon brings author Brent Monahan's chilling, fact-based story of supernatural murder to the screen in this tale of terror starring Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek. The year is 1818 and the Bell family is a quiet clan residing on a remote farm in Red River, TN. A normal, loving family by all accounts, the uneventful lives of the Bell family begin to take a dark turn when strange noises around the farm are followed by the arrival of a black wolf with piercing yellow eyes said to strike unspeakable fear into the very soul of all who encounter it. As the sadistic spirit singles out the youngest daughter of the Bell family for torment and her frightened parents search frantically for a rational explanation to the chilling events unfolding in their once-happy home, an eerie, disembodied voice promises death from beyond the grave. With the struggle rapidly turning violent and the Bells' desperate prayers for mercy going unanswered time and again, the shocking murder that followed would prove the only case in recorded American history where the death of a human being was directly attributed to an attack by an evil entity or spirit.

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Cast

Donald Sutherland
as John Bell Sr.
Sissy Spacek
as Lucy Bell
James D'Arcy
as Richard Powell
Rachel Hurd-Wood
as Betsy Bell
Matthew Marsh
as James Johnston
Thom Fell
as John Bell Jr.
Sam Alexander
as Josh Gardner
Gaye Brown
as Kathryn Batts
Zoe Thorne
as Theny Thorne
Lila Bata-Walsh
as Little Girl
Madalina Stan
as Ethereal Girl
Philip Hurdwood
as Partygoer
Vlad Cruceru
as Richard Bell (Aged 4)
Alin Rosca
as Joel Bell (Aged 10)
Andrei Serban
as Joel Bell (Aged 6)
Susan Almgren
as Elizabeth, Mother
Courtney Solomon
as Entity Voice
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Critic Reviews for An American Haunting

All Critics (69) | Top Critics (20)

  • Unoriginal and unrelenting, this gothic ghost story invests too much time in banging doors and billowing drapes and not enough in its characters.

    Jun 3, 2006 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • This allegedly true tale of demonic possession is weighed down by period detail and ponderous storytelling, which soon get the better of its Exorcist-inspired levitations, flying crucifixes and noisy poltergeist activity.

    Jun 3, 2006 | Full Review…

    Nigel Floyd

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It's never an encouraging sign when a horror movie based on a true story fatally lacks the verisimilitude of, say, Alone In The Dark.

    May 12, 2006 | Rating: D | Full Review…

    Nathan Rabin

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • This is one of the more annoying, irritating, obnoxiously un-scary scary movies in recent memory.

    May 8, 2006
  • This is the type of movie that you should be getting for free on television.

    May 5, 2006 | Rating: 1/4
  • There's thunder and lightning and wall-to-wall music. But it still doesn't add up to much of a movie.

    May 5, 2006 | Rating: 1.5/4

Audience Reviews for An American Haunting

  • Jun 20, 2014
    Clichéd horror film that had the potential of a truly great experience, An American Haunting is one of those films that looks very promising, but fails to deliver on a truly great idea. What we have here is a bunch of bland, mindless predictable jump scares mixed with poor performances. This is one movie that really should have been a wonderful horror film, but it fails due to the fact that its ideas presented on-screen are things that we've seen many times before in other, better genre films. Here we have a good cast wasted on a poor script, and it's a shame because An American Haunting is a very good looking movie, but there is simply no substance to back up the nice atmosphere and tone. What we have here in terms of a horror film is a big disappointment and it just doesn't have enough going for it to make a good movie, the film lacks in genuine chills and thrills and like I said just recycled ideas that we've seen with no care on creating a truly tense, riveting horror film that is engaging from start to finish. The tone of the film is quite ridiculous and if you want a great horror film, you won't find it here. This awful to mediocre horror and it is a movie that fails to really grab your attention the way a film in this genre should. Don't go into this one expecting great things from it, it's a film that just doesn't have anything going for it, and despite the casting of Donald Sutherland, it simply doesn't have any memorable moments of sheer horror, and the film ends up being a lazy affair that is a missed opportunity to make something really stand out.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Jul 09, 2013
    Cliched and boring, not scary or original.
    Chris B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 21, 2012
    *1/2 out of **** "An American Haunting" doesn't get a single thing right in regards to being a good, scary, or engaging horror picture. But there is one thing that earns it a few points, makes it slightly more watchable, and earns the movie an extra half a star from what I would have initially rated it had it not bared this quality: excellent, often times lush visuals. The special effects are so-so and therefore quite far from actually being good looking, but the cinematography is often seductive and darkly whimsical. I just wish that there were things to praise aside from the look of the movie. In the 19th Century, a man named John Bell (Donald Sutherland) is taken to Church court, where a woman named Kate Batts has accused him of stealing land. The court decides to let him go over the fact that his good name might have been soiled if he did indeed steal the woman's land, which apparently is enough for both the people of the court and Mr. Bell himself, but nevertheless; the woman making the accusations is widely believed to be a witch, and it comes to no surprise that she puts a curse on John Bell and his family through words. John Bell returns to his home, his wife (Sissy Spacek), and his teenage daughter, Betsy Bell (Rachel Hurd-Wood). He isn't one to believe in superstition, so he doesn't take the words of Kate Batts into consideration. However, perhaps he should. Strange things start happening around the house and all around town. Mr. Bell is seeing wolves as black as night on his hunting trips that no one else accompanying him sees to see, his daughter is experiencing violent night terrors (or nightmares, rather), and last but not least; strange and ghostly voices fill the air. Is the daughter singularly possessed? Or is it a ghost that haunts the house? There are a number of possible outcomes, but one would think this would make the story more intriguing. Let me tell you: it is intriguing, just not particularly interesting due to a lack of communication in the writing and direction behind it. The film boastfully claims to be based on a "terrifying" true story; I wonder how true the movie is to the actual events, if they did indeed happen. Director Courtney Solomon (Dungeons and Dragons) has access to the best special effects and technical equipment that money can buy; and there were moments in the film when she is able to give us this slight, brief, yet unsatisfactory indication that she might have the skills to make use of what she's been supplied with. However, visuals alone cannot help to save a shallow story, and a horror film lacking proper scares. "An American Haunting" may not be cheap looking, but it's certainly got a poor script. The jump scares are lame, the effects on the ghostly apparitions are majorly outdated, and the acting is either "meh" or just-plain terrible, with Sutherland being the only actor who actually does some decent work. One thing I can't get off my mind was the fact that in a convoluted, unnecessary side-plot involving the legend of the central story as it lives on in present day, 21rst Century America, there's a photograph of two of the film's key characters. Everyone knows that back in the 19th Century, they had yet to invent cameras. So the taking of the photo was impossible. I know it's a small detail, but it bothered me throughout the movie; and made me wonder whether the filmmakers had taken into consideration that in order to engage and refrain from insulting your audience, accuracy is key and absolutely, positively essential.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 18, 2011
    Like many other movie goers, I've avoided this film for the longest time, seeing how low the rate this got, I wasn't interested until me and a friend decided to watch it just for the sake of it! And, I was right from the beginning. An American Haunting is based on true story, but the movie itself was based from a novel that has different story (I guess) than the actual event. The movie started out great, but turned out to be weird and boring when the twist was revealed. The 'twist' killed the movie, we are supposed to see a 'haunting', prolly done by witch which was suggested in the beginning, but at the end you feel 'cheated' and ended up giving the movie low score for its stupidity. 5/10.
    Mesh B Super Reviewer

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