The Bell Witch has been a staple of supernatural folklore since the year 1817. Since then many tales have endured the test of time. From Frankenstein to Michael Myers our nightmares have been filled to the brim with things that go bump in the night. However, The Bell Witch, unlike her fictitious ilk, was very real. Something very strange came to Tennessee so many years ago. Something as unexplainable and deadly as it was real. Given the frightening source material it was only a matter of time before someone made a film about her.
Who better to tackle the story than a Tennessee native? Enter filmmaker and star, Ric White. Upon viewing The Bell Witch Haunting, it’s readily apparent that the material was being treated with respect. Every detail of the account seems to be meticulously recreated, and that serves as both the film’s saving grace and its downfall.
The main problem with The Bell Witch Haunting is the apparent absence of an editor. Even though the filmmakers painstakingly made every attempt at authenticity to the legend, the film’s run time comes in at just over two hours, making for an at times plodding viewing session. Shots go on for way too long, and some scenes could have been trimmed or otherwise completely omitted. Going over every nook and cranny of the story is a great idea for historical purposes; however, it doesn’t always make for good viewing.
The sound design is surprisingly good, but the picture quality itself tends to get quite murky, especially in the darker scenes. I understand the film was set in the 1800’s, but please next time stop at Home Depot™ and pick up some lights. Hell, at points I would have settled for them just lighting a few more candles. My eyes still hurt. On the “extras” side of DVD land you get quite the package here. There’s an extensive behind the scenes/making of featurette that focuses a lot on the actual legend of The Bell Witch, and there’s a whopping 45 minutes of deleted scenes.
There was obviously a lot of love that went into making this film. The cast and crew show enough enthusiasm for two film productions, and from an indie film fan’s perspective that is something that I love to see. To them I tip my proverbial hat.
All in all, The Bell Witch Haunting is a mixed bag. For fans of the legend it’s a must see, but for the casual viewer it’s a really long haul.
The Bell Witch Haunting (2004)
Willing Hearts Productions
Directed by Ric White
Starring Doug Moore, Hope Wade, Amber Bland, Ric White
Behind the scenes featurette
2 out of 5