Monday, April 24, 2006

Moviewatch: "An American Haunting"

"An American Haunting"
Director: Courtney Solomon
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 30
In a Nutshell: Directed with all of the subtlety you might expect from the man behind 2000's "Dungeons & Dragons," "An American Haunting" is the freakiest movie ever made to depict the potential dangers of usury. It's 1817 and a Tennessee landowner (Donald Sutherland) is disciplined by the church for charging excessive interest on a loan. Next thing you know, his winsome daughter (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is thrashing around her bedroom in a manner sure to be familiar to anybody who's ever seen a movie about demonic possession. The doors creak. Things in the attic thud. Respectable actors -- Sissy Spacek included -- speak with variable bad Southern accents. And every time Solomon wants viewers to be scared, he cues the music to a sharp note, or inserts a deafening sound effect. Somewhere in the background are intimations of sexual molestation, the darker truths behind the historical case of the Bell Witch Haunting. Solomon is willing to hint at those realities, but he knows that the movie's bread-and-butter is in the cheapest of scares and the shoddiest of spookiness. The period setting helps to somewhat set this one apart from the "The Exorcist" or "Amityville" or "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" or countless other similar films, but the obviously low budget lends itself directly to a flatness of the storytelling. Worst of all is the framing device in the present that occasionally interjects and numbs all momentum. The actors, all complete pros, do their best, but they deserve better.

Check Zap2it for my review on Friday, May 5.

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