The Amityville Horror (2005) / Horror
MPAA Rated: R for violence, gore, language, sexuality, and drug use
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Grace Moretz, Rachel Nichols, Philip Baker Hall
Director: Andrew Douglas
Screenplay: Scott Kosar (based on the novel by Jay Anson and the screenplay by Sandor Stern)
Review published April 22, 2005
For God’s sake…not again!
26 years after suffering through the first Amityville Horror, we return for a remake, because Hollywood has apparently already run out of ideas on how to rip off Asian horror. While it would seem like a bad idea to remake a film that was bad to begin with, at least it had the possibility of at least being better, which would then make it the best of any of the Amityville excursions. Sad to say, the new Amityville Horror isn’t better at all -- just noisier and more graphic. More graphic means less creepy, as the original film at least had a surreal subtext that stayed with you after the movie ended, but this remake will be easily forgotten once the next horror film comes out, which in 2005 means the following week, if current patterns hold.
Although the claims of Jay Anson’s original novel being based on a true story have been mostly debunked over the years, for some reason, the producers of this film have chosen to retain the services of the phrase. George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds, Blade: Trinity) marries Kathy (Melissa George, Sugar & Spice), the widowed mother of three children, although he finds the task of filling the previous father’s shoes to be a nearly impossible task. They all head out to Amityville to find a house where they all might live, and they soon discover a large, expansive place that is going for a price too ridiculous to pass up. Turns out that the previous tenants were a family that had been killed at point blank range with a shotgun while they slept in the middle of the night. “Houses don’t kill people people kill people”, says George, but he soon finds out that houses can make people kill people, if his new homicidal tendencies are any indication. Apparitions, disturbing dreams, and plagues of flies abound, while George cracks up, much to the fear of his helpless family.
The Amityville Horror is yet another recent horror film to try to drum up scares without bothering with the usually effective character development. Director Andrew Douglas (Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus), directing his first fictional feature, copycats the myriad other productions to tread this same path by constantly throwing strobe-effect images of gore mixed with ear-piercing shrieks and wails, as if the constant assault on all our senses is will make us care for the plight of this family.
Although based on a real-life family, the casting is quite curious. Ryan Reynolds is ripped to the teeth with muscles, although we never once see him doing any sort of exercise other than chopping wood, although there is ample opportunity to show him shirtless whenever possible. Another bizarre casting decision comes from the casting of 28-year-old Melissa George as the mother of three. Given the fact that her eldest, Billy, is played by 15-year-old Jesse James, this means she got married and started pumping out kids at 13 or so(?). The film is set in the 1970s, although you’d almost never guess from the very modern taste in fashion everyone sports, especially Lisa, the hot young babysitter -- well, maybe not young, as her portrayer, Rachel Nichols (Dumb and Dumberer), is only three years younger than Mrs. Lutz. I don’t mean to harp on the age of the actors, as Hollywood frequently miscasts in this area in favor of looks, but it just goes to show just how superficially this retread was conceived from inception.
The Amityville Horror is a film so awful that it begs the question, “Which group is more asinine -- families that stay in an overtly horrific haunted house as long as they can or movie studio execs that keep mining from the same empty shaft of ideas for ways to bombard us with abhorrent, unsavory schlock we’ve all seen dozens of times before?” As long as people still flock in droves to dumb horror films like The Amityville Horror, I guess I’m going to have to brace myself for a never-ending slew of puerile garbage over the next few years. In my mind, that prospect is far ghastlier than anything found in these sensationalistic movies themselves.
©2005 Vince Leo