The first time I encountered the legend of the Bell Witch was within the pages of either Mystery Comics Digest: Ripley's Believe It or Not; or Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, I do not remember which one; all I know is that the story scared the hell out of me. As I grew older and discovered that there actually was a Bell witch I thought that it would make the basis for a great horror movie and hoped and waited for someone to do just that. My hopes seemed to come true with the release of An American Haunting in 2005; but that was sadly not to be and I would have to keep waiting and hoping. Now we come to 2013 and the release of The Bell Witch Haunting. Is this finally the Bell Witch film that I have waited so long for? Sadly no, it is not.
The Bell Witch Haunting is the story of the Sawyer family and their ordeal with the mysterious entity that is haunting their house and property. Said property being on the very land owned by John Bell, the witch’s original victim. The film is in the found footage format and utilizes security, cell phone and hand-held cameras to document the events. Like any found footage film it starts off slow and builds to a predictable climax with footage in between of the Sawyers doing everyday mundane tasks and trying hard to rationalize the supernatural events going on around them. I lost count of how many times someone was told to turn off the camera just like they have been told in every found footage film since The Blair Witch Project. The scary scenes are few and far between; mostly the film is just boring. As for the Bell witch herself you would think that the titular character would be a little more frightening; when she makes her appearance in jump scares she looks like a normal woman that doesn't get a good night's sleep. When she finally makes her presence known sans jump scare she does it by walking across the back lawn to the back door. Not flying on a broom, not slithering, not as a frightful apparition; just walking. Also, what about the cop who investigates every time something is wonky at the house? It seems strange that the same police officer would answer every call and without backup for that matter.
Will there ever be a faithful cinematic account of the legend of the Bell witch? I sincerely doubt it. It will only occur when filmmakers stop trying to add their own spin and simply tell it the way it happened. No scientific explanation, no 'daddy molested me so all this paranormal activity is the result of my pent up anger'; just the legend the way it actually occurred.
I now address all of the future filmmakers out there: there have been enough found footage movies so please do not make any more of them. If you want to be the next Dario Argento or David Cronenberg then by God do it the right way, by learning the art and technique of directing a motion picture. Any idiot with a camera can make a found footage movie. In fact, it is my assessment that every idiot with a camera has made a found footage movie so please, enough already.
I would love to find a copy of the original comics digest that featured the story of the Bell witch. At least it was faithful to the legend;which is something I can’t honestly say about The Bell Witch Haunting.