Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The Bell Witch Haunting (2013) I Tried, I Really Tried
Well, that was something.
Ah, The Bell Witch Haunting. I should have known better. Those rascals at The Asylum got me again, this time with a Paranormal Activity copy that had some accidentally decent scenes, but was mostly filled with surreal, head-scratching moments that made you wonder if you were watching the pre-editing version.
There are no credits. Before and after the movie, there are no credits. Not even an "Alan Smithee." The movie just kicks right in, and it's pretty straightforward. In fact, you've seen it before with Paranormal Activity. Family buys a house in the Tennessee town where the original Bell Witch hauntings happened. Strange things begin to happen. People die. Stranger things happen. More people die. Family decides to have the house exorcised. Really bad things happen. A showdown in the woods and local caves leads to an abrupt and confusing ending.
That's pretty much the plot. I mean, if you want details, I can tell you that it's a family of four, with the daughter recording things during her "fashion blog," and the brother interested in making a movie about the weird things happening around him. So, yeah, it's a found footage film. About a haunting. With ambient music building to warn you when something is about to happen. Pretty much Paranormal Activity.
But...but the logic-defying things that happen. Forget about the ghosts and demons and poltergeists. There's a whole laundry lists of things that I just can't explain, and they're scarier than the movie. It might help to ease the pain if you read the following questions in the voice of Jerry Seinfeld:
* If the movie takes place in Tennessee during January, why are they having pool parties and dressing in shorts? I've been stranded in that great state during blizzards in January, and I only wished I could have a pool party. And what the hey, palm trees?
* A couple dies under mysterious circumstances after leaving the pool party at the beginning. Why aren't they ever mentioned again?
* The house seems to be in a suburban area, with lots of neighbors. Why are there suddenly woods everywhere? I can accept that the house sits on the edge of a wooded area, but when one girl wanders off by herself, suddenly they're in the deep woods.
* And speaking of the neighborhood, why did they move next door to a junkyard? Oh, wait, that's property formerly owned by the elder Bell back in the 19th century. Okay.
* I think they could have expanded on the father's power of premonition. He has a bandage on his forearm, then he doesn't, then he suffers an injury to that forearm, then he has the bandage back. He should have known.
* The kid is so excited to document things happening in his house and to his family, so why doesn't he review his tapes? All it would take is a "here, check this out" and that family would be outta there.
* All these objects moving, strange voices, electricians getting zapped, friends and neighbors dying, and the family is most concerned with...unpacking.
* Proofreading? "January 21th"? The mom's name changing from Jeanette to Martha? I...I...I think my brain is crying. So much more...so, so much more.
OK, so you know me, I'll try to find something good even in movies that I just didn't enjoy. So, here goes: the actors are trying. They are doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing. The daughter, Dana, played by Cat Alter, stood out. Her character suffers the brunt of the hauntings, and she does play the materialistic and ultimately frightened young girl very well. There are a couple of decent jump scares as well, and those two factors saved it from being a total loss.
It blatantly copied Paranormal Activity and did so pretty boldly. That low hum of ambient music is the most telling. It just wasn't my cup of tea, but it did make me pine for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of it.
Still, it was no Hardly Working.
Here's the trailer if you're so inclined to view it: