The Amityville Horror

  The Amityville Horror
Pleather makes me angry!"

© 2005, MGM
All Rights Reserved

For George (Ryan Reynolds, "Blade: Trinity") and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George, "Alias"), purchasing an imposing and discounted house in Long Island is a dream come true for their family. Though knowledgeable of the house's previous tenants -- a murdered family -- the Lutzs move in and attempt to start a new chapter in their lives. Yet once they settle in, strange, ghostly occurrences start happening, leaving Kathy and the kids terrified. George finds himself in even bigger trouble when the spirits start to slowly possess him, urging him to slaughter his family.

"The Amityville Horror" (IMDb listing) is the second production from Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes remake factory, following on the heels of 2003's offensive and yawn-inducing "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The new "Amityville" has all the possibility in the world to update this haunted house story and correct the problems that plagued the 1979 original film (which starred James Brolin and Margot Kidder) by providing a refreshing and innovative take on this tall tale. However, Bay and first-time feature filmmaker Andrew Douglas simply step back and pull the same tired horror tricks that every recent genre release has mistakenly claimed as its own.

Though the film states imposingly that the events of "Amityville" are based on a true story, this new incarnation is even more fantasy-based than any previous take on the material (which, incidentally, was disproved as a hoax years ago). Filmmaking has jumped by leaps and bounds since 1979, but watching Douglas cover this story, one would never know that. The new "Amityville" is the same old circus of cheap shock scares, rambunctious editing, and lukewarm logic. Even worse, some of the visuals are exactly what cinemas have already been bombarded with for the past two years, the nadir being another appearance by an ashen-face 12 year-old demon child who appears and disappears at random (look to the "Grudge" and the "Ring" films for more of this nonsense).

Douglas is incapable of building suspense, and in his scurry to put something creepy on the screen, he ends up tripping himself by playing it, if not entirely conventional, than utterly uninspired. There isn't a creative shot in the entire movie, and by sticking so close to what has worked for other films, Douglas wastes this precious opportunity to show 1979 how it should be done.

Luckily, "Amityville" is rescued slightly by the performances from Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George; the two gifted performers do the best they can with the material and Douglas' spastic direction. Reynolds provides the film's one and only spark of resourcefulness with his peculiar take on George. Adding some trademarked smarm to the character's eventual spiral into madness, Reynolds is always the most interesting object onscreen, and he manages, against all odds, to make his character genuinely chilling and mysterious. When faced with an iffy script and Douglas' obvious pride in his thunderstorm lightning simulator, the fact that Reynolds and George can register at all is something of a miracle.

While this could be written off as a nitpick, I bring up a point that plagued the "Chainsaw" remake as well: why aren't these films created in true period detail? Set in the mid 1970s, everything in "Amityville" screams 2005, from the slick sheen of the cinematography to Reynolds's heavily misted, L.A.-personal-trainer-created abs. Douglas makes a blink-and-you-miss-it pass at keeping period-specific with a brown color palette and some KISS references, but it really is quite silly to watch. Is it too much to ask that a film should look like the time period it has chosen? Well, maybe for this routine, labored "Amityville" remake, it was. Besides, that money would take away from the "you'll never see it coming, deafening shriek on the soundtrack" budget the picture treasures above all else.

Filmfodder Grade: D

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