AN AMERICAN HAUNTING/THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
AN AMERICAN HAUNTING. (2005) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE BELL WITCH: AN AMERICAN HAUNTING’ BY BRENT MONAHAN. DIRECTED/PRODUCED/SCREENPLAY BY COURTNEY SOLOMON. STARRING DONALD SUTHERLAND, SISSY SPACEK, JAMES D’ARCY AND RACHEL HURD-WOOD.
THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT. (2009) DIRECTED BY PETER CORNWELL. STARRING VIRGINIA MADSEN, MARTIN DONOVAN, KYLE GALLNER, AMANDA CREW AND ELIAS KOTEAS.
I’m lumping these two supernatural horror films in together for a couple of reasons. One, I bought ’em on the same day and watched ’em back-to-back so they’re always linked in my mind. Two, I think they actually have quite a lot in common. Each loosely based on true events (Are there any words more thrilling to the horror film viewer than ‘Based on a true story…?’), they both tell of families in crisis being plagued by supernatural forces they can neither see nor understand.
In ‘THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT,’ it’s not hard for the viewer to see where the paranormal problem is oozing from. It’s 1987 and the Campbell family have just moved into a magnificent old country house that used to be a funeral home. What’s more, necromancy and maybe even necrophilia went on in the basement room where the corpses were stored and where the oldest son of the Campbell household is now sleeping. Zoiks, Scoob…!
The hard-done-by and mistreated corpses are restless. They pick on the teenaged boy of the family, Matt, because he’s sick with cancer and is closer to ‘the other side’ than the rest of the family. Matt is terrorised with frightening visions of the ghostly corpses, to the point where he calls in a friend from the cancer ward, a priest, who just so happens to be skilled in the art of exorcism.
What they find out about the hostile spirits in the house scares the living daylights out of both man and boy, but they’ve gotta man up and face these spirits down if they want to stay alive. The scares are mostly of the ‘jump’ variety and there’s a lack of any real horror atmosphere but I still always enjoy the film when I see it.
Virginia Madsen, the beautiful blonde sister of Michael (FREE WILLY and RESERVOIR DOGS), is brilliant as the Mum who’ll do anything to keep her son alive. I love the scene where the drunken Dad angrily removes all the lightbulbs in the house, blissfully unaware that the gaff is haunted to buggery. The cancer scenes involving Matt are hard to watch and were probably the thing I liked least about this otherwise interesting foray into the supernatural.
In AN AMERICAN HAUNTING, which I actually think I like a bit better, we’re back in Ye Oldey Times, early nineteenth century ‘Murica to be exact. John and Lucy Bell’s daughter Betsy, a bewitching little enchantress if ever there was one, is being beleaguered (What a smasher of a word!) by an unseen force that targets only her, Betsy. Why Betsy? Why Betsy, indeed…
John, her father, thinks that the problem is Kate Batts, a woman he’s offended and who just so happens to have a reputation for indulging in the odd bout of witchcraft, but not everyone’s as certain as John is. The episodes of haunting are quite chilling to witness, as Betsy is slapped, dragged around the place, flung into walls and basically physically and emotionally tortured by the unseen force. If only you could, like, hire one of these spiteful entities to bully the bejeesus out of your enemies, haha.
Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek are, of course, horror royalty, having starred in Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW and Stephen King’s CARRIE (the original one) respectively. I couldn’t fault either of ’em in anything they star in.
The daughter Betsy is the spitting image of Rosie Webster from CORONATION STREET, which is funny because that tarty little trollop had an affair with her teacher as well, just like Betsy whose much older teacher is madly in love with her, the filthy pervert…! Still, it was Ye Olden Days. Anything went back then, apparently…
There’s a twist at the end of this movie which I love. As I said, it’s probably the film I prefer out of the two. They’re both well worth watching, though, maybe in a kind of marathon situation. Don’t watch it down in the basement though. Not under any circumstances. I know what your house used to be before you moved in…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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