From Michael Bay, the producer of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, comes the true story of Amityville. In November 1974, a family of six was brutally murdered. Now, a year later, an unsuspecting young couple, George (Ryan Reynolds, Blade: Trinity, The In-Laws) and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George, TV’s Alias), and their children move into the house that was the site of the horrific event and is now haunted by a murderous presence. What follows is 28 days of unimaginable terror. With demonic visions of the dead and relentless screams of terror, this is the haunted house story that isn’t just a movie – it’s real.
eyelights: it’s a relatively short movie.
eyesores: its gross lack of subtlety.
“Based on the true story”*
*Dialogue and certain events and characters contained in the picture were created for the purposes of dramatization.
2005’s ‘The Amityville Horror’ is a remake of the original 1979 motion picture. Both are based on the book by Jay Anson, but the remake claimed to have included material only recently uncovered at the time it was made. George Lutz, whose experiences the book and movies are based on, famously sued the studio and called the picture “rubbish”.
It is, in fact, exactly that: rubbish.
It is probably one of the least subtle horror films I’ve seen recently: its constant barrage of cheap scares are so rote that you are immediately immune to it. I did not jump or feel scared once, for all the quick cuts, flashes, sudden apparitions and dramatic soundtrack that pummel the senses. It doesn’t so much create a mood as overwhelm its audience.
But what can one expect from producer Michael Bay? ‘The Shining‘? As if. Admittedly, he also produced the decidedly decent remake of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, and Scott Kosar, the screenwriter wrote both (along with the pretty good remake of ‘The Crazies’ and the under-rated ‘The Machinist’. So what the hell happened with this big turd, then?
I would love to blame director Andrew Douglas, whose only notable work is this picture, but I suspect that this would be simplistic; he probably doesn’t deserve to be scapegoated. The fact is that, aside for the obvious money that went into the picture, it’s generally a f-ing bad movie: from the script, to the direction, to the cast.
The cast is especially horrendous:
- Ryan Reynolds, never my favourite “actor”, stomps about sullenly, weakly, trading in gravitas for posturing. He’s like a less crafty or charismatic Jason Lee. But ripped like !@#$. How is a man from 1974 ripped like a superhero, exactly?
- Melissa George can’t act herself out of a bag here, overdoing much of her scenes. To make matters worse, she’s miscast, as there’s no way such a young-looking woman has a teenaged boy and two other kids – and is stick thin with big boobs.
- The kids are alright, as far as child actors go (the bar is admittedly very low), but Jimmy Bennett, who plays the youngest son was absolutely awful to watch; he couldn’t deliver a line credibly whatsoever. He gets mercifully little screentime.
Even the supporting cast sucked @$$. Of particular note is Rachel Nichols as Lisa, the unusually slutty babysitter who once babysat for the previous family, the ones that got slaughtered, and returned anyway. And smokes from a mini-bong in the bathroom. Not only doesn’t she fit the bill of a 1974 babysitter, but she’s like a walking cartoon. Which may be intentional. Or not.
‘The Amityville Horror’ is absolutely littered with poorly-written and/or ill-conceived scenes:
- Our introduction to the Lutzes is saccharine and clichéd.
- When the Lutzes visit the house for the first time, it’s quite obvious that the real estate agent is afraid of the house: she looks nervous and avoids parts of the house. But they don’t clue in and take it anyway – even after she reveals the house’s bloody past.
- The first day that they move into the house, the Lutzes filmed about a week’s worth of home video footage – which we’re privy to, naturally. Busy day. They never actually moved anything in: they just drove up and started fil,ing themselves having fun???
- The Lutzes’ daughter goes to the boat-house to show the boat to her “invisible” friend Jodie. But she doesn’t just show it to her, she stands on its tip and stares blankly out across the lake, while holding a balloon. WTF.
- The Lutzes’ daughter goes up to the house’s rooftop for a walk and even balances herself on the edge. Totally normal. And the roof is easily accessible to 6-year-olds. Naturally, she doesn’t fall until the parents show up. But do they catch her…? I’ll give you three guesses.
- Jodie was apparently buried with her teddy bear, but the Lutzes’ daughter now has it. Dramatic revelation, but nothing comes of it. Might as well not have happened.
- When Ms. Lutz researches the house’s history, she reads each headline out loud for the audience. Duh. Frankly, if you can’t read simple headlines, you probably shouldn’t be watching this movie. Mind you, this was made for simple minds, so perhaps it was a smart move.
- When the family tries to run away from George, they go up… to the roof. Even though it’s nighttime. And raining. Yes, survival of the twittest. Somehow they actually do survive.
- George falls off the roof, and is not injured one bit. Must have been the adrenaline. Or the patron saint of psychotic fuckers.
- Even though everything took place in the dead of night, when they take George away in his speed boat to get him away from the house, it’s now daytime. And he’s instantly better. So much better. Clear-headed as… um… day.
And how are these for scares?
- George hears voices. And promptly dismisses them as ventilation.
- George has a vision of a little girl hanging herself.
- George is pulled under the water when he’s trying to take a bath.
- The boy sees a ghoul in the bathroom? Why?
- Blood drips from electrical sockets. But only we notice; it doesn’t have any effect on the characters at that point or in the future.
- The fridge magnets rearrange themselves to write “Katch em and kill em”. Right in front of the mom. Then they go back to normal. Shoulda written “Redrum” instead. It’s catchier. And far more memorable.
- As George begins to lose his grip on reality he has the eldest son hold the logs he’s chopping… violently. It’s such a risible scene that I laughed out loud. Sorry, I meant to say that I cringed… with fear.
- The CGI fly attack on the priest was pretty funny. The original movie was hoakie, but you can blame the budget and the technology. What’s this movie’s excuse?
- There’s a small torture porn sequence at the end, when George sees visions of what took place in the house’s basement centuries ago. It was unnecessarily grotesque and only meant to tie into the craze at the time. Cheap.
- Naturally, there’s a final “surprise” scare. Which, if you’ve seen any modern horror film, isn’t a surprise at all.
Frankly, this Amityville is only a horror in the sense that it’s so poorly put together. It’s a piece of crap. I knew, going in, that it wasn’t going to be stellar, but I never expected something this weak. How could the filmmakers ever make a weaker film than the original, for all its flaws? Well, they did, and there’s absolutely no reason to see this trash.
There are good horror films out there. This is not one of them. Skip it.
Date of viewing: October 22, 2014