Whenever I plan out "30 Days of Horror", I put in movies I haven't seen before, thinking they're horror movies. Then I get around to it and find out it's some weird subgenere of a horror movie, like thriller or "scary drama". What's a scary drama? "An American Haunting" is a scary drama.
I have to wonder about the title. I mean all the haunting movies I've seen, you're "Poltergeists", "Amityville Horror", "House", they all take place in America. So what, is this not your terrorist's haunting, it's an AMERICAN Haunting god dammit it! Red white and blue all the way!!
The movie starts off in the present with a teenage girl running from something. This turns out to be a dream as she's waken by her Mom. Mom tells daughter to get ready her Dad is on his way to pick her up. Mom finds some old journal and starts reading it and it tells the story of The Bell Hauntings in 1819 or something.
In what is possibly the funniest reason to haunt someone, John Bell (Donald Sutherland) is sent to a church court (Yeah I don't know it was the 1800's they were a bit wacky then) because he bought some land from Kathy, a neighbor who may or may not be a witch. Kathy's all pissed off cause John charged her a 20% interest rate, which also pissed off the church court as well. They sentenced John a life sentence of local scorn where anytime he walks around town people look at him and got "Tsk tsk tsk". But Kathy thinks this is a slap on the wrist and instead promises to dole out punishment her own way.
If this was set today, a bunch of banks would be having ghosts visiting them. If they already don't.
So sure enough, some weird ass shit starts happening at the Bell house. John is starting to get sick and in a very unintentional funny scene, daughter Betsy is picked up by a ghost and slapped silly. This happens a few times in the movie. OH NO! NOT THE SLAPPING GHOST!!
At first Betsy's teacher/pedo school teacher don't believe this stuff is happening until he sees the ghost slapping for himself. Betsy is plagued with nightmares and keeps seeing a little girl that no one else sees. After a bunch of restless nights and shots of Ma Bell (Sissy Spacek) looking worried, John goes to Kathy and begs for mercy. But Kathy says "I ain't cursed your house!"
So...what's going on?
Well, this movie decides to take a fucked up turn. The "ghost" that's haunting the Bell's is actually the ghost of Betsy's innocence. Apparently, one night John got horny and realized he was married to old Sissy Spacek and decided to get with Betsy. When that happened, this "innocence ghost" is seeking revenge on John and trying to make Betsy remember it all, since she blocked it out.
That explains the slapping I guess.
So Betsy poisons dear old dad and the little girl, representing innocence I guess, goes away and the Bell's are left at peace.
Back to the present and Modern Day Mom is reading all this, going "Huh". Teen Daughter leaves with Dad when Mom sees Betsy's ghost. Realizing her return "means something" Mom chases after Pedo Dad and Teen who's all "NOO! Not the straps again!".
I'm relieved the haunting is about loss of innocence and not about a high interest rate. That'd just be freakin' retarded. I'm torn on what I think about this movie. It's kinda cool, kinda spooky, and has some neat little action scenes, like when the ghost flips over the horse and carriage. But other times it's a bit slow and the slapping ghost is just hilarious. At least until you find out why, but it's still mildly amusing. I would give this movie another watch sometime in the future, knowing now what I know what happens in the movie.