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ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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An American Haunting (2006)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Courtney Solomon

Starring:
Rachel Hurd-Wood/Betsy
Donald Sutherland/John
Sissy Spacek/Lucy
James D'Arcy/Richard
6 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
In the 1800’s, a peeved ghost crashes the Bell family household, zeroing in on the eldest daughter and putting her through the ringer via all kinds of physical abuse. Arrow Sings: When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? DONALD SUTHERLAND!
THE LOWDOWN
As soon as I saw the trailers for AN AMERICAN HAUNTING (a flick based on the sole validated “death by ghost” case in US History) I was hooked like Michael Douglas at a sedated nudist colony. Props to whoever cut the trailers as they totally emphasized the terrifying nature of this picture. Now that I’ve seen the film, yes it semi lived up to my expectations but something hefty was missing.

Two things are for certain though; AN AMERICAN HAUNTING moved fast and looked damn macabre sexy while doing it. Imagine MTV like aesthetics tagged to a Gothic period horror film with a plot that unraveled a 100 miles an hour and you’ll get a good idea of what this film’s vibe was all about. The substance at hand was akin to a “ghost/possession” Greatest Hits compilation! Echoing The Entity (physical abuse at the hand of a spirit), The Evil Dead (countless “Raimi inspired” spirit POV shots), The Ring (a creepy little spirit girl), The Omen (killer supernatural wolf/dog) and The Exorcist (half cocked dabbling in possession...in this case), it gave me the works when it came to fear set pieces quota and that alone kept my retinas on the screen throughout

The fact that all that horror loving was dipped in a thick coating of polished style made it all that much more of a hoot to sit through! Yup, this baby looked horror candy good! Color tweaked imagery (somebody worked his butt off in Post Production that's for sure), LSD editing, an always on the move camera and lavish cinematography! YUM! Quite the eye pleaser! The film’s knack at capitalizing on its varied sounds lent the whole a helping “boo” as well. Sinister whispers, loud thumps, bump in the motherf*cking night, the checklist was considerably checked and conveyed in a mucho efficient manner that sent chills up my dong. Lastly all of the actors were on the ball with Rachel Hurd Wood not only being one of the most photogenic young girls to recently grace the screen but also giving us a character too root for via her gripping performance. Mark my vacuous words; this girl is going to go places. She’s got the looks and the chops to make it big!

Which bring me to the film’s shortcomings which began with the characters. Thinly drawn out, I needed further juice on these people and their relationships to fully give a poltergeist's ass about them. Thankfully the fine thespians almost made up for the lack of peep-meat but then again, the flick would have been so much stronger if its players would have been giving the fleshing out they deserved. Then we had the dim-witted moves (in the name of serving/padding the plotline of course) that frustrated the "beSatan" out of me. How many times does this poor gal have to get ghost slapped before somebody “really does something to help”, “stays with her at all times” or “gets her out of the freaking house”? COME ON! The lead characters’ in-action (or acting way too late) to what was going down made them come across as un-likeable twits and created redundancy in the narrative. She gets ghost abused, they do nothing, she gets ghost abused, they do nothing...we get it...lets move on or DO SOMETHING ALREADY!

The last block of the flick let me down me as well, with the “explanation” behind the lunacy being tossed my way in a rushed and vague manner, consequently not having the oomph that it should’ve had. I dug what was revealed but loathed the bah way they went about it.  Finally, the film was framed by a present day “opening” and a present day "closing. Why again? The wrap-around was basically useless, unless wanting present day footage to cut into the trailer (help sales) or hoping for a present day sequel was the incentive behind the trivial move. All in all, AN AMERICAN HAUNTING was a glossy, swiftly paced, well acted, mucho frightening, top notch audio/visual genre puppy. Too bad the script was underdeveloped and the last block executed in a throw away fashion. This could’ve been a great horror film as opposed to a passable one.

GORE
We get some blood and brutal happenings. Gore was not on the menu. Chills were though…
ACTING
Rachel Hurd-Wood (Betsy) was incredibly credible as she conveyed her character’s fear and vulnerability impeccably. Donald Sutherland (John) and Sissy Spacek (Lucy) did what they had to do with class, sadly the script didn’t give them enough. James D'Arcy (Richard) nailed his role, alas he played the “skeptic” and his MO of not believing in anything even when it goes down in front of him got aggravating real fast.
T & A
Nope none of that Grey Poupon here, unless Donald Sutherlands long flowing hair (wig?) counts!
DIRECTING
Courtney Solomon (who directed the Dungeon & Dragons film) buttered this buttercup with all kinds of smooth peanut beater. Zany angles, filters/image manipulation galore, ambitious shots and a firm handling on suspense. A shame the script couldn’t keep up.
SOUNDTRACK
We get sucker punching sound design and an unnerving score. They both made the film scarier than it was.
BOTTOM LINE
AN AMERICAN HAUNTING whipped those cheeks hard when it came to showing off fine actors, an effortless pace, kinetic visuals and some visceral frights. It definitely had me by the balls many o times and gave me the uber willies. That's something I always appreciate out of a genre film. Bummer that the script (or lack of) wasn’t all that, with feeble characterization, all kinds of threading the SAME GROUND during the middle section and a lazy/hurried finale that didn’t gratify me. I do recommend that you check it out, there are worst horror films out there, but the next ghost classic? Could’ve been... didn’t happen.
BULL'S EYE
The flick was shot in my home town of Montreal, Canada and in Romania for about $14,000,000 clams.|

VISIT THE OFFICIAL AMERICAN HAUNTING SITE HERE

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10:13AM on 05/07/2006

Are you kidding?

I saw this a few weeks ago when it came out in the U.K. Lately there seems to be a trend of releasing crappy movies here before they put them out in the States. Lucky us. Anyway, the audience was having a great time, at the film's expense. The revelation at the end was *offensively shit* and the black and white bits where just rubbish. They could have done a lot of cool things with this film, the power of Sutherland & Spacek combined!! But in the end, it has a rubbish plot and who can fight
I saw this a few weeks ago when it came out in the U.K. Lately there seems to be a trend of releasing crappy movies here before they put them out in the States. Lucky us. Anyway, the audience was having a great time, at the film's expense. The revelation at the end was *offensively shit* and the black and white bits where just rubbish. They could have done a lot of cool things with this film, the power of Sutherland & Spacek combined!! But in the end, it has a rubbish plot and who can fight that?
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11:29PM on 05/03/2006

Gotta see this one

Growing up in Tennessee I always heard the stories about the Bell Witch, so I'm curious to see how it translates to film. Should be a scary good time!
Growing up in Tennessee I always heard the stories about the Bell Witch, so I'm curious to see how it translates to film. Should be a scary good time!
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