The Amityville Horror (2005) review by The Grim Ringler

By looking at the other reviews of this film floating around the net youd think I saw a totally different film. People are going on about how brutal and dark and all this film is, which I was dying to see but, having seen the brutal take on this classic ghost story, well, I think Ill stick with the original. If I had one bit of advice for you about this film, itd be dont believe the hype. This isnt an accurate representation of the haunting of 112 Oceanview, isnt a great remake, and hell, isnt even a great horror film. While not horrible, it is far too influenced by films like The Ring and The Shining, and to me, well, if you are going to rip off a film, why not try the original you are remaking.

The Lutzes, newlyweds that are trying to find a new beginning for her (Melissa George) she being a widow with three children and a way to make it ok for George (Ryan Reynolds) to become dad. The perfect way to do this, it would seem, is to buy a big house for all five of them and the dog where a new family can be born. The house is a big, beautiful monolith with a shockingly low price and a dark past in which a son murdered his family (who we find out claims voices in the house made him do it), but the price and house are perfect, and, as George states houses dont kill people, people kill people. The house has an almost immediate effect on the family, pulling them all and digging into their minds inch by inch, but it is George who it focuses on, first chilling his bones, and then turning this easy-going, hard-working man into a monster. The house also turns its attention towards Chelsea, the young daughter, who begins seeing the dead daughter from the pervious family and also starts doing the dangerous things she demands such as wandering out to the boathouse, or atop the house so Jody can show her something. There is an evil in this house, and evil connected to a madman who had tortured American Indians upon the foundations of the place ages ago, and who now roams the corridors wanting more people to fill his house. Georges mind starts to fall apart, only returning to his old self when he is able to escape the shadow of the place, and with every passing day, the message of the house becomes clearer Ketcham and Killem. The house deters a holy man from blessing it, and isolates the family, pushing George further and further away from the rest of the family and exhausting him to weaken his mind. The family lasts in this house, their dream house for twenty-eight days, and upon that last horrifying day the house plays its final card, turning George onto the family in a murderous rage, shotgun and then axe in hand and bent on killing the people he suddenly sees as demons. Is there an escape from the grim desires of this place and its murderous intent, or will the Lutz family join the DeFeos and become yet more ghosts to haunt this damned place.

I am hoping that this film will be the last nail in the remake coffin and that it will stop the flood of remakes that Hollywood has been anxious to try. Sure, I like a lot of the remakes, some are damned good, but when you make a film like this, that doesnt add anything to the franchise, and diverges from the original and the story it is supposed to tell, well, then whats the point of it? Oh, right, to make money. Which I am sure it will. I dont hate the people that made this film, as they really wanted to make a good film. Its ably directed, and the acting has moments of greatness, but dammit, they took the scariest things out of the damned story. I mean, why on EARTH do you eliminate the Red Room, which existed in this house and was the source of all the evil? This was the place where the evil happened so long ago and that created the dark shadow that blanketed the dwelling. Now it is a weird underground dungeon that may or may not exist and that was the home of nearly satanic horrors and a scary killer dood. Ack. And why the hell would you change Jody, the invisible friend of the daughter? In the book and original she was a pig, a freaking PIG! A pig with red eyes that could shape shift and whose eyes were seen watching the house from outside. Hell, they removed the demonic figure George saw twice, the second time as the house bled black from its walls and it tried to keep him inside. They even changed the fact that it was the dog that helped get them out of the bloody house, instead opting to give him another fate. Sigh They took a great original premise and effective film, and watered it down into a wanna be Shining. The little girl is scary because of The Ring and Grudge and a load of other Asian horror films, not because she is scary. Hell, they even changed the fact that all of the DeFeos were killed while they slept, all of them lying face down, as the American Indians were laid to punish them when they died. They created a house of boogeymen where the father figure was already three steps towards monster. Reynolds, poor guy, isnt given enough time to show that he is a likable sort, being thrust head first into the house and is immediately turning towards a darker side. There is no slow build here that a haunted house film needs. It should have been given two hours to breathe, to let you see that this happy family had its dreams slowly pulled away from them, one by one, until, in the end they are faced with the horrifying fact that the monsters in the house have become themselves. The house is scary though way too damned big and imposing for a mere family to live in or afford and is filmed very effectively, and some of the flash-cuts in the film are very well placed, but there is no real feeling for these people. They just felt like pieces moving on a board. I appreciate that Jody was really this great face of evil, a villain in the face of a young girl, but she isnt played that way. Shes played as a victim to the house, trapped there by a bad-man we never really get to even give a damn about. But the thing is, shes as much a monster as she is, and should have been portrayed as such.

What bothers me most here is that there is a lot of great material to develop, and having read the book, there is a lot that wasnt seen in the first film. A lot of quiet moments of horror that lead up to the full marching band of doom. And hell, where IS the marching band that drove George so batty? Its as if the filmmakers deliberately avoided anything that linked their film to the original, which I can sympathize with but, well, how come Dawn of the Dead was able to be so effective and NEW yet use the same premise? What bothers me is that this began as a quiet horror film of mood, suspense, and tension. You know that something happens in those twenty-eight days to drive this family out and away from all their possessions forever, but what was it? The film has some wonderful moments, and is very dark, but in the end the film devolves into Shining-lite and is so far from what really happened that I feel for poor Mr. Lutz, the real one, that people will think he really did try to do the things the film purports. In the end, yes, this is a film, a loose adaptation that was bound to take liberties with the source material, but good grief, why call it Amityville then? Why not say inspired BY instead adapted FROM?

This is not a horrible film. A lot of people will like the nastiness and grim vibe, but when the highlight of the film is the appearance of a sexy babysitter (or a needlessly graphic sex scene between George and Kathy) then you know you are in bad shape. I like that modern horror films are not being soft, and are playing to the horror-nerds out in the audience, but its disappointing that they are still not getting that wed prefer a quiet, un-bloody horror film that scares us instead of a bloody mess of a movie. Worth a rental but thats it. What a let-down.

c




6 out of 10 Jackasses
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