The Bell Witch Legend Movie Review
Written by Steve Pattee
What happened here was so terrifying that some folks, even today, refuse to talk about it. – Narrator
Written and directed by Zac Adams
2008, 50 minutes, Not rated
Lynn Hoffman as the narrator
The first I heard of the legend of The Bell Witch was over four years ago when I reviewed The Bell Witch Haunting — a low-budget docudrama made in Tennessee, home of the infamous Bell Witch. While it was desperately too long, it did a good job covering the myth of the Bell Witch, and it left me interested to learn more.
Afterwards, I read a couple of books, checked out a couple of sites and watched An American Haunting — a film with fantastic potential, but was ultimately only lackluster.
Yet, as seemingly popular as the Bell Witch's legend is — at least in Tennessee — I was surprised that documentaries on it were curiously lacking. So when The Bell Witch Legend was offered for review, I was eager to check it out. Finally, I rejoiced, a documentary on this infamous ghost.
The Bell Witch Legend has all the pieces for a great doc. It has descendants of the Bells (the family tormented by the spirit), local historians of the subject and access to many of the locations as it was filmed in Tennessee. On paper, this is a rock solid film.
However, what kills this documentary is its lack of direction and poor editing. The Bell Witch Legend has some solid interview subjects, but it's mostly talk, and talk with no direction at that, bouncing from topic to topic. I don't blame the interviewees for this, as it's not their responsibility to stay on subject. Instead it's up to the interviewer to keep them on track and, sadly, this doesn't happen. Instead of getting a linear story of the Bells and their history, you get a hodgepodge of stories that never seem to come together. The story of the Bell Witch is one that demands to be told in a direct fashion, and bouncing around doesn't help it in the least.
This is a shame, too, as the subjects are eager to tell the history in a wonderful folksy way, but the film lacks the ability to focus on one topic long enough to make any sense in the bigger picture. There are exceptions, of course, like when Bob Bell — owner of the local funeral home — shares some experiences he had as a child, including a television mysteriously acting up when the family attempted to watch a TV special on the Bell Witch, only to return to normal when the special was over. Sadly, though, these instances are few and far between.
Knowing a good chunk of the history of the Bell Witch helped tremendously when watching this documentary, as I was able to fill in many of the blanks, but if someone is going in having never heard anything about the Bell Witch, they will be sorely disappointed. That said, the people interviewed were all incredibly likeable, and there are some amusing and thought-provoking experiences sprinkled throughout, but until you know the history of the Bell Witch, this should be skipped.
Video Audio and Special Features:
Not graded as this is a screener.