Producer Michael Bay loves the “true story” angle and throws it right on the “Amityville Horror” posters as a tagline. However, unlike his previous horror film, (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake) this one can honestly make that claim.
In 1974, Ronald DeFeo killed his entire family in a house in a Long Island suburb and, in doing so, provided the mythos that has sustained seven movies, a television show, and several spoofs. In the book by Jay Anson (and the first film), George Lutz tells the story of how he and his family moved into the home, discovered it was haunted, and moved out only 28 days later. This rendition makes film number eight and, although it’s based on the book rather than the original film, it shares much in common with its predecessor.
“The Amityville Horror” stars Ryan Reynolds as George and, if you can look at him without thinking “That’s Van Wilder!” then he does a pretty good impression of a guy who is slowly becoming possessed. Melissa George (and her phenomenal but too briefly glimpsed bottom) is also on hand as his wife Kathy. Several talented children round out the cast, but it’s the house that’s the real star; it opens and shuts windows, locks and unlocks doors, and bleeds from the electrical system at will.
Scratch that – it’s the film that’s the real star; it will use anything to catch us off guard: color filters, slam cuts, grainy video, 8mm film, herky-jerkiness. Likewise, the script will do whatever it takes to make us uneasy, including showing little kids in peril…which it does again and again. Additionally, some image devices are borrowed from other films, including “The Ring” and “Stir of Echoes.” Even the underlying mystery behind the house’s origin is too derivative of another film (which I won’t print here for fear of people connecting the dots before seeing “Amityville”).
Overall, the cheese factor runs pretty high in spots, especially in some of the dialogue. At one point Kathy, in trying to convince George to leave, screams at him: “If we stay, we’ll have the house and the family…only there’ll be no family!!!” Um…come again? How about you just stop talking and show us the bottom again, Kath?
All of these things don’t mean “Amityville” is a bad film; however, it isn’t a great one either. Some scenes are freaky as hell, and the very last shot left a feeling of unease in me. Some parts, as they did in Bay’s “Chainsaw” remake, left me feeling dirty for watching and, in a horror film, that means it’s done its job. While it may sound like I disliked the film, I most definitely recommend it, just with reservations. Whereas “Chainsaw” may have been a grand slam, “Amityville” feels more like a series of pop fly balls and, in this case, one scary moment is enough to carry you to the next one (and if, like NFlames, creepy little kids just do it for you, this one’s got a doozy).
I hate to say it, but it looks like, to paraphrase Clive Barker, the future of horror is Michael Bay, and God help me, that may turn out to be a good thing. I reserve my final decision until I see his next production.
Pros: A couple of good high points. The children give terrific performances. Simultaneously stylish and gritty.
Cons: Does borrow a bit too much from other films. Some unintentional laughs. Choppy editing in the middle. The origin of the house just didn’t do it for me.
Review Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes of “Super Sugar Crisp!” RoXoR!! (That’s now called “Golden Crisp” to all of you born too late to have lived through the political incorrectness that was the 1970’s.)
“The Amityville Horror” (2005)
86 Minutes; USA
Rated R for violence, disturbing images, language, brief sexuality and drug use.
Ryan Reynolds (George Lutz)
Melissa George (Kathy Lutz)
Jesse James (Billy Lutz)
Jimmy Bennett (Michael Lutz)
Chloe Grace Moretz (Chelsea Lutz)
Rachel Nichols (Lisa)
Directed by: Andrew Douglas
Viewing Format: Theatrical Release