2005’s ‘Amityville Horror’ remake isn’t actually all that bad

Ryan Reynolds is haunted in 'Amityville Horror' (2005)
Ryan Reynolds is haunted in ‘Amityville Horror’ (2005)

With this review I’m not going to get into the details of how this film differs with the original. It’s been years since I’ve seen it and that wouldn’t be fair. And while this is yet another remake in a year of remakes, I wanted to rail against The Amityville Horror. To tell you it was another stupid attempt to rehash something you’ve already seen and does very little with it.

Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. First, the good news: The Amityville Horror is a creepy, enjoyable horror flick. Now the bad news: It didn’t suck, scoring one more point for the Hollywood moguls who think making remakes is a good idea.

I can’t stand remakes, but for every War of the Worlds there’s a Dawn of the Dead and now, The Amityville Horror. The scares in this flashy and dark flick are effective, with some strong performances by Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, and the oldest of the three kids, Jesse James.

As the story goes, the Lutz family has found the perfect house — a massive waterfront home with lots of property that is surprisingly cheap. Kathy (George) falls in love with the home, and is undeterred when she and husband George (Reynolds) discover that a young man killed his parents and siblings in this very house only one year earlier. Soon after moving in, the Lutz family begins to experience strange occurrences. Things begin to get worse when George starts acting strangely. He’s hearing things, voices, and becomes angry and violent towards the children.

Soon these violent tendencies grow worse, and the rest of the family fear for their lives as they discover the same spirit who corrupted the young man and forced him to kill his family is controlling George — with the hopes of repeating history.

I was honestly a little creeped out by this film. At one point I got a phone call while watching it, and paused the movie. I was out of the room for a few minutes, but returned when I heard dialogue playing and thought the film had resumed. It was very clear and distinct, but when I got back to the television it was still paused exactly where I had left it. I think at this point the film had effectively had me a little spooked.

The Amityville Horror is all about horror and scares. So much so, that very little else is given much attention. While this is the film’s strongest asset, it’s also its biggest weakness. There are only two or three scenes that don’t contribute to the building tension, and these scenes are treated as arbitrary, to such a degree that they feel like minor distractions. Like the director knew he needed to include them, and momentarily cuts to them with a “oh, right, and this happens, now back to the horror!”-like attitude. They’re chopped together and clearly show the filmmakers cared little about them, wanting to get back to the house and the action as quickly as possible.

Reynolds does a terrific job, shedding his sarcastic image in favor of the dark, troubled George Lutz. He’s come a long way since his days as the picked-upon teen who later becomes a bully in the Canadian soap opera for kids, Fifteen. George is also strong as the stricken wife, but I have to mention Jesse James, who really delivers as the oldest of the three children. The scene between him and Reynolds where they are chopping wood is one of the film’s best moments, and both actors make it work perfectly.

The DVD includes a few choice bonus features, one of them being “Supernatural Homicide”, which discusses the real incident that this film, and the original, was based upon. It’s interesting and presents the facts, as well as the supernatural spin, but strives to be an honest discussion on the matter. There’s also a behind the scenes featurette, audio commentary which is rather entertaining, and deleted scenes.

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