The Amityville Horror

on July 27, 1979 by Christine James
Print
The film's opening declaration that it's "Based on a True Story" -- stark, scary font and all -- is shamelessly misleading. Whether the original "Amityville Horror" tale, chronicled in the 1977 Jay Anson novel, was itself a true story is highly debatable (it's widely thought to have been a hoax). And what transpires in this hour-and-a-half of horror movie rehash has barely any connection to the actual disturbances described in Anson's 'as told to' account.

But casual horror fans would hardly want an endless "Star Wars"-like scroll full of caveats, maybes and perhapses to slog down the thrills. Unfortunately, the thrills come pre-slogged with overfamiliarity.

What was the tale of the Lutz family, who moved into a deal-of-the-century home only to find that it's pervaded by evil spirits, now finds patriarch George (a convincingly charismatic-to-psychopathic Ryan Reynolds) being possessed not by the devil but by Bill Paxton in "Frailty." Meanwhile, Samara from "The Ring" zips around the house like Toshio from "The Grudge" while trying to avoid the preacher from "Poltergeist II," who centuries ago pulled Delphine LaLaurie-type stunts on the site of the house, which is -- all together now -- an Indian burial ground.

There are the inevitable bathtub attacks, taps dripping blood, demons who appear behind you when you're looking in the mirror and an invisible friend who gets mad if you say it doesn't exist. The cool thing about the purportedly real account is that said friend was a demon-pig. An eerie little girl can't really compare.

Satanic swine aside, the more chilling parts of the book were the more subtle elements. The house's previous residents, the DeFeo family, were murdered in their beds by eldest son Ronny, who later told police he heard voices coming from the house telling him to do it. All the family members were sleeping on their stomachs and inexplicably didn't wake at the night-shattering sound of gunshots as Ronny went from room to room. The Lutzes, unaware of these details, noted later that they had all begun to uncharacteristically sleep on their stomachs after moving into the house. It's no axe in the abdomen, as we see in the film (a hallucination, just to work in an axe to the abdomen), but it's the sort of understated creepy detail this movie just isn't interested in. The gradually crescendoing accumulation of houseflies as a harbinger of evil likewise is here replaced with a sudden blast of the winged vermin that ironically, for all its bombast, doesn't have nearly the same impact.

Had the horror slate of 2003 and 2004 not existed, this "Amityville" remake probably would have raised quite a few goosebumps and bolstered the nightlight industry. Instead, the reaction more often is, "Boy, was that scary when it was in 'Ju-On'!" Starring Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Grace Moretz and Rachel Nichols. Directed by Andrew Douglas. Written by Scott Kosar. Produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. An MGM release. Horror/Thriller. Rated R for violence, disturbing images, language, brief sexuality and drug use. Running time: 89 min

Tags: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Grace Moretz and Rachel Nichols. Directed by Andrew Douglas. Written by Scott Kosar. Produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. An MGM release. Horror/Thriller, creepy, houseflies, vermin, night-shattering
Print

read all News »


0 Comments

No comments were posted.

What do you think?