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An American Haunting

Film One Star

The trailer for the movie An American Haunting pitched it in the Exorcist camp with an element of some brooding suspenseful horror from the likes of Omen. It was also boasting the talents of both Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek, so it did appear to hold a lot of promise.

The section of the film that deals with the actual haunting is pretty powerful stuff, and really does work well, however there it ends, and to be honest there are some terrible problems with this film.

AnAmericanHaunting_Poster.jpgBefore we get started may I just thank Edinburgh Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema again for helping out with these reviews, they're being really good and showing a genuine interest in film fans. Now, back to the haunting.

The film starts off quite tense, straight from the opening moments, a traditional horror\thriller moment that plays to many traditional Hollywood scares and yet works well enough not to seem over used. Then the pace is slowed and the more psychological scare tactics come into effect before the audience is introduced to the family at the center of the story. All this works really well to kick start the excitement and put the viewer on edge from the beginning, and the deliberate killing of the pace and views of normality serve to make you unsure of where to be expecting the next scare.

These scenes are almost too homely and idyllic though, I say almost because I did start to feel myself cringe a little but then quickly accepting the situation. This was perhaps due more to the period the film is set in and the feeling of innocence of the age. However it's not long before the scares are introduced again, with a slow building pace. Some of the scares are again straight out of the standard book of movie scares, but what gets you is the fact that they work, the do scare you, and I would find myself gripping my hands together because of the rise in tension.

The whole haunting is done well. It's built at a solid pace, there are plenty of scary and creepy moments mingled with the out and out screaming scares. There's also a superb use of movement in sound and camera throughout the film.

The sound effects travel around the audience, with whispers and growls, wind noise and slamming of windows, you really do feel as though you are in the room with the family members and experiencing the same events. Then later scenes move the camera around the room and the characters, often as the spirit itself moves and speaks, bringing the sound with it. It disorients the viewer and moves you right into the thick of the action.

It all adds up to quite a scary experience, not in the realms of Hostel (review) or Hills Have Eyes (review) scary, but creepy, unnerving scary. It's done very effectively.

During all this there are a couple of performances that stand out, Sutherland is very good, but Rachel Hurd-Wood gives a frighteningly good performance and had me convinced of her utter terror and at times total abandonment.

However it is at the peak of the haunting where the film takes a huge fall. Just when the story arrives at the pinnacle, ready for some payoff or twist, the entire story is explained for you in front of your eyes in around thirty seconds. Not only are you visually shown what has happened but whatever is doing the haunting decides to narrate what has caused this, what has happened since, and what is going to happen. You sit there as children being led through the story step by step. It's an awful moment, and quite frankly it's quite insulting.

It is honestly a word for word explanation of the entire plot from here on, accompanied by visual representations. A slide show couldn't have been any worse. From here on the plot is raced through in what seems like a matter of minutes, and events slammed on the screen for you to see as bold as day. Only at the very end is there some return to treating the audience with a modicum of intelligence and events are hinted at rather than spelt out.

These scenes seemed totally out of place and character with the rest of the film which had tried so hard, and was succeeding, in delivering something a bit more than a traditional scary movie. Yet when this guided explanation starts I was utterly disappointed and felt cheated out of a good film.

Edinburgh Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema
IMDB Film Details



I like that movie a lot..BUT...I did not understand if that father bring that curse upon his self..and why? Did he hurt his own daughter? Thats why he suffer...? But why her? And that witch look like' nighbor had nothink to do with that curse?

Hey there Daniela.


I think it was the Father who brought the curse on the family by doing things with the daughter he shouldn't have. There's a visual explanation of this at the end, in the European version anyway.

I don't think the neighbour had anything to do with it.

So we understand that the father was a pervert, but we still don't understand why the family was haunted and the connection between the two. What is up with the black wolf? And why couldn't you see the father's physical being when the girl was getting slapped around? Was she getting molested by the father AND being slapped around by ghosts? Shouldn't the slapping be done to the father instead? And what is up with the little girl ghost? Someone please explain!!! Very confused!!!

My understanding is that the daughter brought on the possession like symptoms because her mind couldn't cope with the abuse and how to tell the family, and there wasn't really a haunting.

The wolf was just a misleading tactic by either the filmmakers or the father in the film.

i finally just saw this movie. i think that it started out a little to original horror film for me. the explanation at the end was brought on to quick they should have dropped hints throughout the whole film. was the daughter daed and wanted to show her family what happened and who was that little girl pretty outrageous!!! although the secret was good and the father part i would have never thought of the movie was not explained well enough and i wouldnt watch again........

uh yeah. I understand what they are trying to get at but there is a lot that doesn't match up. I think they tried to hard for a twist and should have stuck with the spirit or deamon. It could have been much better than it ended up being.



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Movable Type 3.34

All you need for a movie are a gun and a girl
- Jean-Luc Goddard