Director – Andrew Douglas
Cast – Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Moretz, Rachel Nichols, Philip Baker Hall, Isabel Conner, Brendan Donaldson
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I remember working at a local movie theater when this remake came out and thinking to myself “what a waste of time and money”, refusing to give this film a watch due to my distaste for money-grabbing horror remakes at the time. While I still somewhat feel that way, I decided it was about time that I give this flick a watch in its entirety (I saw snippets here and there while working at the theater) so that I could settle a personal dilemma over whether or not this film outdoes the original – which I feel is an mostly-positive yet overrated film whose sequel, Amityville II: The Possession, is much better. This remake oddly suffers some of the same faults as the original does, but thanks to some unique elements thrown in that result in a somewhat original take on the original storyline and positive direction from Andrew Douglas this effort was not nearly as bad as I expected, and made for a flawed but decent almost-positive watch.
When George(Ryan Reynolds; Blade: Trinity, Buried) and Kathy(Melissa George; Triangle, 30 Days of Night, Turistas, Mulholland Drive, Dark City) Lutz come across a large and beautiful lakeside home with a low price-tag they rejoice at the thought of the home soon becoming theirs, and take a terrible risk when they learn of the home’s dark past yet take the plunge in buying the home anyway. Soon after moving in the Lutz family experiences odd occurrences going on around the home, and they soon learn that the past never stays buried in the Amityville house.
I really cannot tell you with absolute certainty which film is better, this one or the original. Most likely it is the original as they both receive the same rating from me but the original has achieved classic status whereas this remake is just…a remake, despite the positives it delivers that the original failed to give us. If the original IS better, then it is only by a slight margin. Nonetheless, the original was not an original idea, but an adaptation of Jay Anson’s novel, so does it really matter?
The story follows the same overall plot from the original film, which works as an enjoyable one for me because I love films that involve people moving into a new home. Why? Because you never really know what went on in the home, and that leaves the new tenants open to whatever supernatural/physical forces still residing in the dwelling. Our characters are mostly positive, with each providing their own movement to the piece, although some obviously more than others. I was glad to see that we were given some additional elements not seen in the original piece, mostly regarding the background behind the heinous events that took place years before the Lutz family moved in. In addition to that, this is where the only actual kills occur in the film, with most of them occurring off-screen and sadly never really delivering the horror the storyline could have delivered. Much of the dislike regarding the original film is that it is quite boring, but thanks to Scott Kosar’s brisk moving screenplay this film did not suffer the same fault. For example: the original film runs 117 minutes, this one runs 85 minutes and gives us more going on than the original did with almost 40 more minutes. Sadly, this screenplay does come with quite a few faults, and to make matters worse they came during the final act of the film. I was enjoying the first two acts of this piece and was leaning towards a 7-rating at the close of the second act, but after the typical Hollywood dialogue and stupid scenes we were given in the third act this film was lowered to the borderline-positive level the original resulted in – a big loss in potential.
First time feature-film director Andrew Douglas did a great job delivering this film to us, employing awesome atmosphere provided by perfect sets from the dark and gloomy home, very much reminiscent of the subject matter at hand. His camerawork is positive and he does a fairly good job at providing the horror at times, although I cared little for the CGI horror scenes as they were just typical Hollywood and not very scary. Now the “closet” scene was great, and definitely the highest selling point the film had to offer. Surprisingly enough there was a decent amount of gore thrown into the film, although most of it came via shy execution that left most of the kill sequences sadly off-screen. For a PG-13 effort they sure left out a lot of the horror that they could have gotten away with in this underwhelming experience.
Overall, The Amityville Horror remake is a decent watch that brings some positives not seen in the original piece, but still suffers the same overall outcome of the original despite coming in at a brisker pace and offering more horror – a sad case of lost potential. The direction is positive in giving us good atmosphere in well-shot fashion, so watching this film will not be painful, just unfulfilling.