An American Haunting

Despite their acting and horror pedigrees, neither Donald Sutherland (‘Don’t Look Now’) nor Sissy Spacek (‘Carrie’) can save Courtney Solomon’s stodgy adaptation of Brent Monahan’s novel ‘The Bell Witch: An American Haunting’. Set in rural Tennessee in 1817, 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.

As usual, a girl on the cusp of womanhood is the focus of spiritual, familial and sexual disturbance. Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) suffers nightmares in which she is hoisted into the air and slapped about the face by an unseen entity. Her parents (Sutherland and Spacek) call in the local priest, and even the obligatory sceptic, local teacher Richard Powell (James D’Arcy), is forced to acknowledge the presence of evil. Adrian Biddle’s moody cinematography lends a classy gloss to a film that is both encumbered and embarrassed by its generic trappings: the would-be ‘Sixth Sense’-style ending makes no more sense than the redundant contemporary wraparound story.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday April 14 2006
Duration: 91 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Courtney Solomon
Screenwriter: Courtney Solomon
Cast: Donald Sutherland
Sissy Spacek
Rachel Hurd-Wood
James D'Arcy
Matthew Marsh
Thom Fell
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