Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Amityville Horror (2005)

Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George play George and Kathy Lutz respectively in this remake of the much-loved 1979 haunted house movie. While it may lack some of the original's more memorable moments and Lalo Schifrin's haunting score it certainly does enough to entertain modern audiences and at least keeps the character of the house, and it's "face", intact.

Many people already know the (in)famous tale but for those who don't it's relatively simple to recap. A couple bought themselves a house with a troubled history (most notably, the murder of the DeFeo family by Ronald DeFeo, Jr) and only managed to stay there 28 days before fleeing a place they claimed was evil and full of demonic influence.

Let's be very clear about the aim of this movie; it's an entertaining horror and not meant to be an accurate depiction of something many people are already very well-informed about. Yes, it takes liberties with certain truths and even puts its own spin on certain character motivations but the gist of the matter is still all about the effect the house itself purportedly had on those living within and, in that regard, the film does a very good job.

One of the main, and most interesting, differences between this movie and the original is one of its strengths. The original Amityville movie was classed by many as a "mortgage horror", one of a subset of movies detailing how horror could impact on day-to-day activities and social standing, whereas the remake weaves a more interesting strand in adding to the financial strains the family experiences with the weight of Reynolds' character stepping into the shoes of a much-missed husband and father. This group dynamic really helps to create small divisive cracks that look set to become chasms with only the smallest of help from the malevolence residing in 112 Ocean Avenue.

Director Andrew Douglas doesn't do a bad job at all and, in fact, manages to create one or two moments that are arguably better than anything in the original movie. He gets decent performances from everyone involved, especially the child actors (though a bad child performance from Chloe Grace Moretz seems impossible now that we've seen her in so many great roles). Reynolds really only manages to show what he can do when allowed to show the darker side of George Lutz but he's very entertaining while he does it. Philip Baker Hall plays a priest, and you can imagine his presence not being very welcome in the house, while Rachel Nichols plays a pretty irresponsible babysitter who gets a comeuppance way too harsh for her misdeeds in a most memorable manner. Reynolds is probably the weakest of the cast members but it's unfair to really be too negative to the guy when he still manages to make so many scenes work as he gets more and more freedom to succumb to darkness.

Scott Kosar has crafted a screenplay that nicely updates the  material for a new generation. It has a lot of familiar moments for fans of the original movie but also hits a few, enjoyable, fresh beats and does plenty to avoid feeling like a pale imitation.

Many people have found that this was yet another horror movie remake they could easily complain about with an abundance of computer effects and a few scenes involving far too much snappy editing. It is easy to complain about, agreed, but it's also quite an easy movie to enjoy and provides some enjoyably entertaining scares in a way that may not change the face of the genre but may remind some people of the "ghost train" reaction they can get from simple, well-executed scares. It's also worth noting, in the film's defence, that one of the more tense sequences actually sticks to a simple set-up with no visible flashiness or major CG histrionics. I certainly enjoyed it and hope others do too, though it's definitely not a movie to be taken seriously and it's not for anyone interested in the argued actual history of the case (from the DeFeo murders to the Lutz's ordeal). Just turn on and let yourself be entertained for 90 minutes.



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