Amityville Horror

You know you’ve reached a new plateau in maturity when Hollywood starts remaking movies that were popular when you were young. Excuse me, younger. That trend, everything old is new again, continues with the make over of 1979’s The Amityville Horror, a marginal shocker which proved there is no such thing as a good deal in real estate.

Just ask the Lutz family. The perfect nuclear family, George (Ryan Reynolds), Kathy (Melissa George) and their three children can’t believe their fortune when they purchase a home in Amityville. The house comes with everything a young family could possibly want, and a couple of things they could do without. Like the fact a six-pack murder-suicide has made the house affordable, and the troubled souls of the vicious attack are dying for a new family to move in.

Over-the-top to the point of becoming camp, the original film was bad enough to be giddy fun. The remake, directed by Andrew Douglas (from a screenplay by Andrew Kossar, who performed similar duties on the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), approaches the material with complete conviction. There’s no wink-wink, nudge-nudge going on here. This is linear storytelling at its most conventional: get in, get out, do as much damage as possible en route.

Which is more than adequate if the trip is diverting and worth it. It’s not. If you’ve seen the original, then you’ve seen the remake. The new movie looks edgier, a byproduct of Hollywood’s current love affair with Asian horror films, and at a compact 93 minutes doesn’t drag its heels. Even the actors seem more in tune with the material, with Reynolds and George stepping up nicely as decent parents navigating personal then supernatural obstacles. Chloe Moretz has some near misses as the Lutz child who sees dead people.

Kossar’s screenplay tinkers with the original story (supposedly based on a true story, since debunked), exorcizing some events while inventing others. Philip Baker Hall plays the local priest who lets the house get the best of him, and Rachel Nichols, as the Lutz babysitter, learns there isn’t enough free pizza and soda to compensate for her experience in Chelsea’s (Moretz) closet. As played by Nichols, the character feels out of place in Amityville. She would be more at home at Camp Crystal Lake where her sexual come-ons would have been met with much worse.

After catering to the PG-13 market, I was surprised the makers of The Amityville Horror decided to go for it instead of pulling back. Which is odd, because in this day and age of The Grudge and Boogeyman, it wouldn’t be hard bringing this story to shocking life under those restrictions. AS with the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film makers use gore to convey horror, which only works if the horror can rise above the gore. Tossing buckets of crimson innards at the audience isn’t the same as bitch slapping them first. Cower then shower. It’s not that difficult. Get it right.

Reel Estate

Chopping Around for a Scream House


Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Moretz, Philip Baker Hall, Rachel Nichols. Directed by Andrew Douglas. Rated R. 93 Minutes.


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