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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

An American Haunting (review)

Generations shift, and somehow the devil children, quite literally the spawn of Satan, of 1970s horror cinema have become the pure, innocent lambs of today’s scary flicks, victims, I tell you, victims who take no wicked pleasure in their possession, whose very innocence brands them targets for haunting. Following hard on the footsteps of last fall’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose — in which a sweet, sheltered naif comes over all Biblically evil — is this frightfully dull example of the new subgenre. Here, in early 1800s Tennessee, young Betsy Bell (Rachel Hurd-Wood: Peter Pan), just bursting into ripe womanhood, finds herself tormented by a malicious poltergeist who pulls her out of bed, slaps her around, and generally mistreats her. She’s a good girl, even if she does flirt with her handsome schoolteacher (James D’Arcy: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) far more than decorum — or Dad (Donald Sutherland: American Gun) — might permit. Candles are blown out and chairs get tossed around while Mom (Sissy Spacek: The Ring Two) wails. There’s exactly one scene that shocks (and it’s not the “surprise” ending, either), and while this ain’t nothing like writer-director Courtney Solomon’s last film, the really really dreadful Dungeons & Dragons, well, D&D was at least entertaining in its awfulness.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense terror sequences and thematic material

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb

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