Fri, Aug 04, 2006 - Page 16 News List

Who's afraid of the big bad ghost?

By Nathan Lee  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

An American Haunting is scary all right, but not for anyone in the audience. Nor does anything in it quake the boots of Rachel Hurd-Wood, who, in the role of Betsy Bell, pretends to be slapped around, moaned at and generally terrorized by an invisible ghost. No, the terror here is suffered exclusively by Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek; their participation can be explained only by some unfathomable deal with Satan.

It is possible, given his hairdo, makeup and costuming, that Sutherland simply wandered over on his lunch break from Pride and Prejudice” and was tricked into the role of John Bell Sr, patriarch of a beleaguered clan of 19th-century Tennesseans. After a land dispute with a neighbor ruins his reputation, John finds his house visited by a mysterious spirit with a penchant for pulling hair and knocking over furniture.

Lucy (Spacek), his wife, is powerless to stop this supernatural silliness until, in the surprise denouement, she isn't. At which point An American Haunting exchanges bottom-barrel metaphysics for even cheaper psychology.

Written and directed by Courtney Solomon, best unknown as the man who brought Dungeons and Dragons to the big screen, An American Haunting purports to be based on a documented event, although most of its inspiration has been drawn from the empty well of The Exorcist and its progeny.

Film Notes:

An American Haunting

Directed by: Courtney Solomon

Starring: Donald Sutherland (John Bell Sr), Sissy Spacek (Lucy Bell), James D'Arcy (Richard Powell), Rachel Hurd-Wood (Betst Bell), Matthew Marsh (James Johnston), Thom Fell (John Sell Jr)

Running time: 83 minutes

Taiwan release: Today


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