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Amityville Horror, The (2005)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"For God's Sake . . . it's worse than the original!"
1 stars

I don’t know how they managed to do it but the makers of “The Amityville Horror” have figured out a way to make a film that is actually worse than either the 1979 original or its two subsequent theatrical sequels. This is not as easy as it sounds because those previous films were among the crappiest horror films ever made–each one a compendium of hoary cliches and tasteless images tied together by one of the most ridiculous “true” tales of terror of modern times. Somehow, though, producer Michael Bay and screenwriter Scott Kozar–the same whizzes who whizzed upon another classic title with their grotesque revamping of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”–have created a film that makes those earlier installments look like the original “The Haunting” by comparison with this gory bit of gibberish. Jeez, even this most preposterous of urban legends deserves a little more respect than it has been afforded here.

For those who have somehow managed to go through their lives without hearing the story of the strange goings-on at the infamous bit of Long Island property (or resisted the urge to sneak out in the middle of the night as a child to watch it on HBO), this much is certain. In 1974, the home was the sight of a grisly multiple murder as all but one member of the DeFeo family was shotgunned to death as they slept. The lone survivor, son Ronnie was arrested for the crime–according to one of the many stories he told, he heard voices coming from the house ordering him to kill them because they were demons. A year later, the Lutz family-George, Kathy and her three kids from a previous marriage–moved into the surprisingly affordable Dutch colonial to start a new life for themselves. Twenty-eight days later, they fled in the middle of the night and later told stories involving mysterious voices, slime emanating from the walls and other things that went bump in the night. An entire cottage industry developed around their claims–first a best-selling book and film that told their story (the first sequel, “Amityville II: The Possession,” was loosely based on the actual DeFeo murder for the first half before veering off on a demonic possession riff while the second, “Amityville 3-D” abandoned all pretense of truth to deliver such terrifying images as flaming corpses, exploding basements and Meg Ryan in an early role) and later a series of reports that suggested that the entire story was cooked up by the Lutzes in order to escape from the crippling financial obligations the house put them under by making money off of an easy-to-sell monster story.<

This go-around follows the broad outlines of the story. It opens with the delightful sight of Ronnie DeFeo gunning down the family, taking extra time to linger over the murder of adorable little sister Jody, followed by faux-documentary footage of the aftermath (in a naked attempt to follow the template of the “Chain Saw” remake.) Right on cue, George and Kathy Lutz (Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George) show up to discover the house of their dreams and not even the realtor’s grudging admission of what happened seems to faze them much–“Houses don’t kill people, people do” serves as their mantra. They move their brood in and the weird stuff immediately begins to kick in–George is always freezing and has visions of dead people while having sex with Kathy while their adorable little daughter talks about her new invisible playmate, a girl named Jody who used to live there. Before long, George is acting increasingly deranged–he spends all of his time snarling at his brood while developing an unhealthy fascination with his axe–and it quickly becomes apparent that Kathy’s statement, “I think there is something seriously wrong here,” is liable to go down as one of the all-time great understatements.<

The original “Amityville Horror” had one intriguing aspect going for it that pretty much went unremarked upon its original release, though Stephen King picked up on it in his essay on it in his essential book “Danse Macabre.” For all of its pig-ignorance, the film did do a good job of symbolizing the social and economic fears of the post-Vietman/post-Watergate era by showing how the very symbol of the American Dream–the big house for a big, happy family–could literally tear apart that very same family if they found themselves unable to meet its literal and symbolic costs. The most memorable sequence in that film (aside from the sight of Margot Kidder exercising in her leotard) was the bit where George’s brother-in-law lost the money due the caterer for his wedding somewhere in the house. Although clearly unable to afford it, George covers the caterer with a check and is then taunted by visions of the empty band that once held the money. This was something that audiences of the time could easily relate to–far more than demonic pigs–and I think that it was a good part of why the film became such a popular hit in 1979.<

That aspect has been entirely dismissed with here–apparently Bay, Kozar and director Andrew Douglas must have figured that it was too cerebral a concept for the teeny-bopper audience that they were clearly aiming for here. Instead, we get a ridiculous sequence in which the cute little daughter is lured by Jody to the highest reaches of the roof so we can spend several minutes watching George and Kathy scrambling around trying to prevent the tyke from plummeting to her death. Instead, we get an ever more ridiculous sequence in which a pot-smoking sexpot babysitter (Rachel Nichols), who used to sit for the DeFeo’s, tells the Lutz kids exactly what happened there–she gets locked in a closet with Jody and does not come out smiling. Instead, we get a preposterous “explanation” for everything, in which we learn that some evil priest built a torture chamber underneath the house in order to kill a bunch of Indians for no other reason than to provide a quasi-plausible explanation for a trashy horror film a couple hundred years later.<

Beyond those additions, “The Amityville Horror” seems to be content to merely steal bit and pieces from other, more successful, films. The two biggest contributors here are “The Shining” (with the conceit of the haunted house possessing the seemingly stable family man with an ax to grind) and “The Ring” (with Jody, who had previously appeared as some kind of demonic pig, displayed here as yet another creepy little girl hiding a malevolent gaze behind a mask of long, dark hair) but there are also moments cribbed from such other films as “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” that seem to have been included just so that the filmmakers can explain how clever they were on the inevitable DVD commentary. Because they apparently decided that such nonsensical in-jokes were far more worthy of their time, the actors are basically left up a creek to fend for themselves. Reynolds seems to be coasting through the film doing his impression of Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”–the problem is that he so broadly overplays the full-on psycho schtick from the get-go that he has nowhere to go as things progress. George is pretty and pretty bland–she reacts to everything with what can only be described as dull surprise–and each of the kids has been given exactly one character trait (sullen, whiny and cutesy) and each hammers it into the ground. Even the great Phillip Baker Hall, whose performances in “Secret Honor” and “Hard Eight” (not to mention his bit on “Seinfeld” as the library cop Bookman) are among the greatest things that you will ever seen an American actor do on film, is reduced to nothing in his brief appearance as a priest who pops up in the late innings to bless the house and gets a face full of flies for his troubles.<

That brings up another problem I had with the film–the near-total reduction of the religious element that dominated the original film. That one, as I recall, was swarming with priests and nuns and religious symbols from the beginning and they served as an early tip-off that things weren’t all right in the Lutz home. By comparison, not only has that aspect been almost totally eliminated, the lone priest doesn’t even make an appearance until the 89-minute film is almost two-thirds. Look, I may not know much about making an “Amityville Horror” film, but I do know that if you are going to try to do one, you had better have it swarming with members of the clergy. Again, if they had replaced it with anything of value, I probably wouldn’t have minded so much but it is pretty obvious that this aspect was removed simply to avoid offending potential ticket buyers. I don’t know about you, but the idea of a secular “Amityville Horror” film is far more terrifying than anything on display here.

“The Amityville Horror” is nothing more than a gross, unappealing and decidedly non-frightening waste of time that has been made for one reason and one reason only–the recent remakes of such 1970's horror hits as “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and “Dawn of the Dead” were hits at the box-office and the producers figured that making a film around such an easily exploitable title would lead to similar financial results. In fact, I can only think of three halfway positive things to say about it. First, it does manage to avoid the repulsive geek-show depths that Bay and Kozar plunged to in the “Chain Saw” revision (though I, for one, could have probably lived without the extended scene of a little girl walking around with a gaping shotgun wound in the back of her head). Second, the gap in quality between the original and the remake isn’t as wide as it was with “Chain Saw,” mostly because the original in this case wasn’t much of anything to begin. Finally, and most importantly, “The Amityville Horror” is so bad that it may finally kill off this astonishingly resilient urban legend once and for all, sparing future generations their own remake another quarter-century down the line.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11925&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/15/05 00:31:49
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User Comments

2/20/17 morris campbell it sux read the book instead 1 stars
9/03/15 David Hollingsworth The only thing that is watchable is Ryan Reynolds' abs. 1 stars
12/10/12 Jamie 'Art' fuck you, you cunt. This sucks. 1 stars
9/06/10 art this 2005 one ROCK"S!,and it take's one {A MORON} to know ONE! 4 stars
6/20/10 Sarah Webster Hey art, the original is a classic. This remake is shit.u make yourself look like a moron! 1 stars
3/13/10 art TO TELL YOU the TRUTH,i never saw the first one,i read the NOVEL,this one is the BEST! 4 stars
7/30/09 art MUCH BETTER THAN THE 1979 ORIGINAL! 4 stars
9/11/07 TreeTiger Not that bad, actually... 4 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK The only thing scary about this film is that another might be on the way. 2 stars
11/18/06 khrystal very scary! i kept seeing that little girl hanging at the foot of my bed for weeks!!! 5 stars
11/13/06 Mark pass 2 stars
11/04/06 mp good visual effects , good acting, and steady supsense, that is all folks. 3 stars
9/22/06 David Pollastrini the house looks nothing like the real house 3 stars
8/22/06 Mr.X this movie blew big donkey dick!!!! 1 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist An abomination to the original, just another over the top crappy, horror popcorn flick. 1 stars
6/15/06 Michele good remake clever additions 4 stars
3/18/06 CJ Intensity throughout it all 5 stars
3/15/06 Anthony Feor A pitiful remake 1 stars
2/16/06 Alice Nope 1 stars
2/02/06 tatum Starts well, gets progressively sillier as it goes 2 stars
12/17/05 JeromeBosch Beefcake and babe can’t save this diluted bouillon of a remake. 2 stars
12/14/05 me could have been better 3 stars
12/01/05 George just as bad as the original 1 stars
12/01/05 MrsVoorheesBabyBoy Better Than the Original 4 stars
11/24/05 cr a pump up remake and scary of course, but nothing to be jumping about 3 stars
11/24/05 cr a pump up remake and scary of course, but nothing to be jumping about 3 stars
11/22/05 Melissa Ryan Reynolds looked hot (and crazy) -- not bad but not scary enough either. 4 stars
11/21/05 Kurtis J. Beard Wow - beyond horrible. All time low for horror. 1 stars
11/19/05 Bestit People who are scared of this are scared of their own farts, as well. 1 stars
11/13/05 Indrid Cold Of course it looks great, but ultimately just a compilation of cliches. 2 stars
11/02/05 nikita m i thought it was a good movie it freaked the shit out of me and the guy is so hot its crta 5 stars
10/29/05 Horror buff I think it was actually a good remake, though not as scary as the orginal. 4 stars
10/25/05 chris fox (the god) a fair movie not very scary though 3 stars
10/20/05 PAG Mediocre. Better than original, but that is not saying much. 3 stars
10/16/05 tony scary and sometimes boring. Parts were slow,and dull. 2 stars
10/14/05 Adam The original was at least passable than this second rate crapfest 1 stars
10/11/05 ad ok 3 stars
10/09/05 ashley i liked it but i want to know more 4 stars
10/08/05 Monday Morning Points off for the dog getting killed, but OK otherwise. 4 stars
10/07/05 othree Great casting, suck storyline, suck version, suck efx 1 stars
10/05/05 j.b 2.5 1 stars
9/26/05 Amber I love this movie it wa the only movie that I've ever been to where people screamed 5 stars
9/08/05 John Surprise: A remake that's better than the original 4 stars
9/02/05 Jenny This is a scary movie Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George are great together 5 stars
8/07/05 Junior The most shocking thing about this motion picture is that it's all true! 5 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Original was boring, predictable mess and this remake is only slightly better. 2 stars
7/07/05 YEAH U SEE ME?ITS ME!! hey its me again..ITS FUCKING FUNNY 5 stars
7/07/05 YEAH U SEE ME?ITS ME!! cool movie.very funny 5 stars
7/07/05 Jmz H scary movies ending always scary..sigh.. 5 stars
5/21/05 Charlene Javier I finally liked a Ryan Reynolds movie! 3 stars
5/19/05 wendy rogers The movie is ok...Not real scary but worth seeing. 4 stars
5/16/05 Shawn Borucki Forgettable movie. Somes scenes feel like they were mimicing Kingdom Hospital and Ju-On. 3 stars
5/09/05 Carol ok 3 stars
5/01/05 Valerie great movie, great plot, but the ending is really stupid. 4 stars
4/29/05 Mider when its a good movie and its a remake then that makes it a GREAT remake 5 stars
4/26/05 Aaron Pilkington Scary as hell!!! 5 stars
4/26/05 John very effective and at times really scary- well done 4 stars
4/25/05 Sheree Burns I thought this was the best "remake" film yet.... 5 stars
4/25/05 E-FUNK Collapses immediately and induces laughter when you should be shitting your pants. 2 stars
4/24/05 movie man It was a excelent movie 5 stars
4/20/05 Naka Gore an' shit. Whoo. Now, if only it was, you know, entertaining or at all scary... 1 stars
4/20/05 Krisan Graves Decent movie 3 stars
4/19/05 J MAN scary 5 stars
4/18/05 Maril Smith Excellent Instant Classic! The first film to really scare me and my friends since The Ring! 5 stars
4/18/05 Me A great film 5 stars
4/18/05 Mix Master Mason Should have gone direct to video. Has that annoying Marilyn Manson video look. Blah!!!!!!!! 2 stars
4/18/05 Michael Lee I thought it was, what it was... a good scary movie. 4 stars
4/18/05 Al Guy Lame. The Shining done poorly. 2 stars
4/18/05 Tom Rudderham A lazy and thoughtless remake. 1 stars
4/18/05 Renita Long not as good as the original 2 stars
4/18/05 Gray could have been better 3 stars
4/17/05 Ahnold Not as good as original, but not as bad as everyone writes 3 stars
4/17/05 Christy Weller It's an ok movie, Not one I would Highly reccomend 3 stars
4/16/05 Sharon Davis No worse than the other horror movies out there 2 stars
4/16/05 J MAN Nice surprise, good thrills. Scary how it's a true story.... 5 stars
4/16/05 rory i couldn't sleep after this one. Scarier then the original.... 5 stars
4/16/05 Junior LaROche Liked the original, don't like the current string of Holylwood remakes!!!! 2 stars
4/15/05 Naka Horror shit. 1 stars
4/15/05 shatonjia I hated it 1 stars
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  15-Apr-2005 (R)
  DVD: 04-Oct-2005



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