Amityville Horror, The (2005)

The Amityville HorrorReviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Moretz

Directed by Andrew Douglas

Nobody kicked up a fuss when producer Michael Bay announced a new version of The Amityville Horror – and rightfully so. Even among the anti-remake crowd, staunch supporters of the original are few and far between. To this day the 1979 film remains more famous for the amount of sequels it spawned rather than its quality. So this probably comes as no shock: The new Amityville is better than the old one.

But that’s not saying a whole lot. Even though it isn’t nearly as sleep-inducing as its predecessor, this update is every bit as generic as the same team’s overblown (and ridiculously overrated) Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. In typical Hollywood fashion this Amityville replaces style, pacing, and mood with flash, flash, and more flash. You can almost see Michael Bay’s personal mantra written in big bloody letters on the screen: “Why have build-up when you can get instant gratification?”

For the uninitiated, Amityville is “based on the true story” of the Lutz family, who were supposedly driven out of their new home by supernatural forces in 1975. You see, this house was previously occupied by Ronald DeFeo, a man who mysteriously went crazy and murdered his parents and siblings. Shortly after their initial move, family man George Lutz begins to exhibit similar symptoms of madness, while numerous hauntings take their toll on the entire family.

So begins a tedious 90 minutes of wall-to-wall ghost clichés and predictable CGI “boo” sequences (as if the Dimension Films logo doesn’t immediately clue you in). The scare tactics are not just obvious but downright goofy, and the rapid-fire editing becomes utterly nauseating at times. Likewise, the stock soundtrack alternates between hokey supernatural panting and deafening musical stingers. As if to seal the deal, we’re even given the standard-issue bathtub ghost attack. Is there any horror movie these guys haven’t seen?

This all wouldn’t seem so bad if we were given characters to sympathize with. But none of the Lutzes are the least bit involving, and Papa George’s descent into madness comes off more like a Cliff Notes version of The Shining. Only two outside characters enter the fray, both with ties to the murdered DeFeo family. One is a sexy, modern-talking teenage babysitter (who previously sat for the murdered children, yet has no qualms about coming back to the house). The other is an old priest played by Phillip Baker Hall in a thankless “power-of-Christ-compels-you” role.

Many horror fans feel obligated to support this film as it proudly wears its R-rating on its sleeve. Indeed, there’s plenty of gore and even a few squirm-inducing moments scattered throughout. Nonetheless, the whole thing seems designed for the attention spans of teen-age girls. Despite its obvious devotion to the source novel and the (*snicker*) true events, this Amityville Horror feels less like a film and more like a “greatest hits” compilation of scenes from better movies.

For God’s sake . . . Get out of the theatre!

2 out of 5

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