An American Haunting (2005)

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Released 8-Mar-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 82:38
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Courtney Solomon
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Donald Sutherland
Sissy Spacek
James D'Arcy
Rachel Hurd-Wood
Matthew Marsh
Thom Fell
Zoe Thorne
Gaye Brown
Sam Alexander
Miquel Brown
Vernon Dobtcheff
Shauna Shim
Madalina Stan
Case ?
RPI ? Music Caine Davidson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    After her daughter discovers a spooky doll and is chased by an evil force, a woman reads the journal of her ancestor, Lucy Bell (Sissy Spacek), to remind herself of her family's shocking past.

    In the early 19th century, a curse had been placed on John Bell (Donald Sutherland) and his family after he conducted a shady land deal with a woman considered to be a witch. The family home became haunted by a malevolent spirit that picked on John's youngest daughter Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) in particular.

    An American Haunting, at least the component set in the early 19th century, is very loosely based on the bell witch haunting - the best documented haunting in the history of the USA. Alas, the film is such a generic haunted house flick, and takes such broad creative liberties, that you would struggle to tell (if indeed you can make much sense of it at all).

    Though the film is founded on a well documented historical event it struggles to present an interesting or coherent story. In fact, the screenwriting is generally lazy and awkward. The small component set in the present day is little more than a bookend to pad the film out to 90 minutes and provide an excuse to narrate nearly every event in the 19th century story rather than let the story unfurl on screen. Even with the corny narration there is virtually no story connecting the scenes, or indeed much story at all... Family gets cursed, ghost attacks girl, everyone is shocked, ghost attacks girl again, everyone is shocked again, and again and again. Rarely has a movie that is so packed with cheap scares been so dull.

    The direction of the film is a mess. The photography is an erratic mixture of awkwardly still shots and a hyperactive camera moving around on a dolly while cheap visual effects such, as negative colours and random black and white flashes, are added. It is altogether irritating to watch.

    The acting is generally adequate, though a bit of a mixed bag, and both the sets and costumes are excellent. Unfortunately, none of these better points does much to save the film. Avoid this one at all costs.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer quality is not nearly of the standard most people would expect of a new release film.

    The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is reasonably sharp in most scenes, but the picture is rather grainy. The grain is particularly bad in dark scenes, which are also affected by rather heavy marco blocking. Furthermore the shadow detail is quite poor, which leads to large areas being swallowed by total black in the dark scenes. Aside from being a little bit on the dark side, the colour in the transfer is reasonable.

    Interlacing artefacts are visible throughout, indicating that the transfer was probably sourced from an NTSC transfer and poorly scaled to PAL. This causes the image to appear softer whenever there is much movement onscreen and contributes to some irritating aliasing (eg judder in the trees at 35:32).

    English subtitles are available. They appear reasonably well timed and accurate.

    This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is only available in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kbps), not the original Dolby Digital 5.1 that was theatrically featured on the film (and is present on the Region 1 editions). One star has been deducted for this travesty.

    The dialogue appears to be in good sync throughout the movie, but is buried very softly in the mix. In order to clearly hear the dialogue, it is necessary to turn the audio to volumes that will have the effects nearly deafen anyone in earshot.

    The score is reasonably decent for a horror movie, but the use of music is quite erratic throughout the film and frequently the music doesn't fit the events on screen terribly well.

    The surround channels are very active for a prologic 2.0 mix and used to very good effect. The subwoofer also gets a good work out. Unfortunately, the sound in the surround channels is a little muddy and really emphasises the lack of a 5.1 channel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The only thing in the way of extras are trailers for Pulse, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Running Scared.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are two editions of the movie available in Region 1, an "unrated" edition and the theatrical PG-13 edition. The "unrated" edition runs about 8 minutes longer than the PG-13 edition. We appear to have the shorter US PG-13 version on the Region 4 disc.

    Both Region 1 editions feature a decent swag of extras not found on the Region 4 release, putting either edition ahead of Region 4 in any comparison. All Region 4 gets in exchange is three trailers for other movies.

    Specifically, Region 4 misses out on:

Summary

    Devoid of plot, confusing to the point of being barely comprehensible at times and, worst of all for a horror movie, just plain dull. The only thing scary about this haunting is the fact that this disc made it beyond any sort of quality control. An American Haunting cannot be recommended to any audience.

    The disc lacks the extras available on the Region 1 edition (despite taking up little more than three quarters of a single disc layer).

    The video transfer is poor, and displays a host of irritating artefacts.

    The audio is a mixed bag, given a surround-encoded 2.0 presentation (albeit quite a good 2.0 presentation) rather than the original 5.1 presentation and suffering from rather quiet dialogue.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDLG V8824W, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D512
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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