I kinda like it when Found Footage films base themselves on real life incidents or folklore that is relatively well known. I always find the background gives the film an extra boost of edginess and anticipation.
The Bell Witch Haunting is based on the real life records of the Bell family’s farmland terrors of 1817. One of the most widely recognized paranormal incidents in American history…
A Little Background First…
Before we jump into the film itself I thought I’d better cover the original incident first to give you a better idea of the basis for the film.
Farmer John Bell uprooted his family to move to the prosperous Tennessee ( Adams ) in the early 1800s. Within a few years of living in their new home the poltergeist of a witch named Kate Batts started to ‘pay them a visit’.
The haunting started off pretty lame with objects being moved and sounds being heard in the walls. Within months the paranormal activity had escalated to the point where family members were being physically assaulted by the spirit of Batts.
The Bells’ youngest daughter, Betsy, seemed to be the main target of this twisted entity and was subjected to horrible tortures.
Several accounts report that during his military career, Andrew Jackson was so taken by news of these terrifying incidents he chose to visit the Bell family in person.
After a night of pure terror, the future President of the United States fled the farmhouse never to return…
The Sawyer family are over the moon when they move into their new home in Adams, Tennessee ( you can already guess where this is going can’t you? ).
The birthday party for young Brandon Sawyer seems to be the catalyst for a roller coaster ride of death and destruction in the neighborhood.
We watch the events unfold through The Robertson County Sheriff’s Department’s released family videos ( camcorders, cell phones and the like! ).
I was really looking forward to the Found Footage genre taking on this famous American ghost story but it’s safe to say the finished product was not what I was expecting.
There are many cool points to the film that end up being slightly outweighed by sloppy filmmaking decisions and blatant mistakes.
The first irritant to grab my attention was the surrounding cast outside of the Sawyer family. When you are basing a film in Tennessee, wouldn’t it make sense to find a few actors that could attempt a Southern accent?
The second standout flaw for me was the casting of the Sawyer family father – he didn’t seem to fit one little bit ( in my humble opinion! ).
He sort of had that muscle-bound ex-army ( or steroid-head! ) look that didn’t seem to fit the overall family dynamic. I thought a balding, slightly overweight, bookworm would of been a lot more comfortable in the part.
I felt that director Glenn Miller decided to overlook errant details that many viewers would easily pick up on – that’s a little bit lazy really isn’t it?
But not all of the film is delivered from the turd factory – some bits manage to turn out quite atmospheric and memorable.
The problem I have is that if you get the chance to cover a VERY famous paranormal folklore you should go all-out to make it as polished as possible…this didn’t!
If you like Found Footage you will enjoy certain segments of this film but the remainder may well disappoint you. An average movie overall ( unfortunately ).