Chiller Cinema review of "The Bell Witch Haunting":
The Bell Witch Haunting
a review by Cameron McCasland
Not growing up in Tennessee, I feel I was more fit to review this movie on
its own merits as opposed to the local legend that has been embraced by most
of the Middle Tennessee community. I had little to no knowledge of this
story until the movie came out.
The story itself is fascinating. The Bell Witch appeared out of nowhere.
It then attaches itself to a family for several years, making them grimace
in horror for years to come. The only peace they would find would be in
death. The poltergeist tale of the 1800's does not have a happy ending.
The truth of the story has been validated by both scholars and camp fire
tales. The movie would embrace both of these things.
The movie was surprisingly better than I anticipated. It had many of the
major pitfalls to over come right from the start. A period piece, with
several child actors, working on a low budget...these things were set aside
to make a wonderful debut film from director Ric White. The story follows
reporters looking for confirmation of the book written by John Bell's son.
They come across an old hermit named James Johnston (played by director Ric
White) His performance is subtle, you can see a built in madness much
different from the younger Johnston you will meet in the flashbacks. White
seemed to know how to play a man before and after he had seen things to
change his outlook on life.
The story is told mostly in retrospect from this point on. We meet John
Bell (played by Doug Moore) whose performance is straight on. A God fearing
man who lets the haunting persist until he fears harm may come to his
family. There is a beautiful shot of open Tennessee fields to start this
picture off, at this point I knew we weren't going to be dealing with a
low-fi ghost story. You are given your first hint at the haunting when a
shot hits but doesn't bring down the ghost of a large animal.
As the story unfolds James Johnston and several associates come to the aid
of the Bell family with little help for their well being. The ghost attacks
on physical and mental tirades. It appears only briefly and the movie never
lets you see enough of the ghost to get a good feeling what it is. They
leave that to your imagination.
The Bell Witch haunting takes another route not usually associated with low
budget horror movie making. It is surprisingly clean. The blood and gore
is kept to a minimum, and the profanity is non existent. It refuses to hide
behind the same old marketing tool of the sexy hack and slash ghost story.
It holds your interest through storytelling, always wondering what's next
gets you through the two hours.
The witch is confusing and irritable, such as the legend proclaims. You
can't be sure of who it was and what brought it to the Bell family. The
movie embraces this and leaves you with no explanation of its menacing
hauntings. They also end the witches story with the Bell family, and leave
the rest of the stories to be told with marshmallows and hot dogs.
All in all the film is a must see for fans of the local legend. It has
many great merits and few pitfalls along the way. The story of the Haunting
has survived almost 200 years, and this film is just another chapter in a
long complex legend that gets better with age.
Review located at: http://chillercinema.com/bellwitch.html