Saturday, November 2, 2013

In short: The Bell Witch Haunting (2013)

When will people ever learn to ask their real estate agents if the property they are interested in is haunted? The Sawyer family doesn't and soon finds themselves in a shiny new house in Tennessee right on the property famed for the Bell Witch Haunting. Not surprisingly, their house is haunted by the Bell Witch, who proceeds to go through all the tricks we know from Paranormal Activity style POV horror, so there will be falling and flying household items, levitating bed sheets, and last but not least possession. The family doesn't have it too bad, though, for people walking through the woods around the house get killed in violent and increasingly stupid ways by the witch, who really doesn't sell her point of getting the Sawyers to leave her house very logically.

All this doesn't just sound rather familiar but is shot by director Glenn Miller without much more than the usual cargo cult copying of the surfaces of the films it bases its ideas of scariness on. I don't mind so much that The Bell Witch Haunting does not seem to have a single original idea but rather that it really doesn't seem to know how to sell all the ideas it has borrowed decently.

The film is completely lacking in any sort of actual mood of horror, or dread, and never lets one forget that one is watching only a movie. Nor is there much excitement to be had, nor is the Bell Witch mythology used in any interesting way, or really, used in any way except for dropping the name and giving a vague one minute version of the supposed original haunting. There are one or two moments that actually threaten to work, but they are buried under the film's hapless attempts to have a higher body count than POV horror usually has by randomly getting people we couldn't care less about killed in the woods (of course all carrying cameras). Which also rubs the audiences' noses in the fact that the local police is reacting to a sudden series of violent deaths, and people from one family who knew all of the victims running around the woods in a disturbed manner, by picking up the bodies and delivering the family members back to their house, respectively.

Even worse, the grand finale starting with an - of course - failing exorcism, is just plain ridiculous, with the film seemingly giving up on even trying to be creepy or scary and instead just throwing bad make-up on a teenager, turning on the wind machine, and making screeching noises. Watching The Bell Witch Haunting's grand finale, I wasn't sure if I was mildly amused by its crappiness, or embarrassed on behalf of the filmmakers. But then this is an Asylum production, so I'm pretty sure I would be the only one embarrassed here.

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