The Amityville Horror (2005)

This does have some great elements that is a gleaming example of what this movie could have and should have been per the generous rating. Admittedly, I’m a real fan of Ryan Reynolds. He was good in that crap “Van Wilder”, and he was my favorite aspect of “Blade: Trinity”. He’s a genuinely good actor who has the ability to become one of the many huge over-exposed actors of the time. Reynolds gives a good performance and was convincing, and he’s really menacing when he begins going nuts. There’s a particularly great scene when he’s chopping wood and he’s making his stepson hold the wood and it’s so well directed and edited I was thinking “that’s how this movie should have been!”: tense, gritty, creepy, and just plain character-based.

Plus, I liked the whole stepfather trying to prove himself to his new family theme thus exposing a vulnerability for the house to prey upon angle that was never fully explored. As a writer, I would have exposed that one element and given that to the audience as a basis for the deteriorating sanity of the George character, and Douglas does manage to pull off rare scenes of atmosphere that had me watching all the way through, it’s a shame he didn’t work it through the movie. And some of the scare devices do manage to work. Especially the scene with the boy in the bathroom which managed to scare the crap out of me, admittedly, and I don’t scare too easily. All in all, I do like the climax of the film better than the ending to the original film with George actually managing to be capped off with his possession.

I admit I was one of the few people who welcomed a remake to the Amityville Horror. I didn’t think much of the original film which was very tame considering what the writers had to work with. I always say, don’t remake a classic, remake a movie that has room for improvement, and the original film had room for improvement. But it’s sad how this and the original had the ability to become one of the scariest movies ever made, and yet they both manage to drop the ball creatively, and conceptually. In the end, after watching this movie, I was sad, basically because they took a lame movie and only made it equally lame. It’s ultimately like “which is better, old crap or modern crap?” I have no choice.

The Amityville story became bedtime sleepover fodder for years when I was a kid, and they simply cut off its balls. Based on the supposedly alleged true story of the Lutz family who moved in to the “perfect” house and suddenly shit just hit the fan as they discovered it was haunted from a previous crime, now stars Melissa George as Kathy Lutz and the good Ryan Reynolds as George Lutz, and this is just hackneyed all around. What ultimately put my cojonès in a vice is that the screenwriter Scott Kosar claims he’s a fan of the original film and decided to create a more thorough history of the Amityville tale, but this clocks in at only an hour and a half, and the original nearly two hours. So, you decide, which is more thorough?

And this basically just gives audiences what all the current remakes have given them, a quick fix story, with quick cut editing, without any build-up, much like the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”, and that’s not a good thing. It all goes downhill from the opening which shows the dramatic deaths of the Defeo family which is a very clunky range of sequences with the quick cuts and strobes meant for drama when really it’s just really staggering, dizzyingly edited, and confusing. I even got vertigo during most of the opening sequence. What was the point of the beginning which did nothing in establishing the basic carnage that ensued within the house? There’s nothing to it, and the director just does nothing new with the material he’s given. Yet during this he does nothing but consistently give us the same old crap. Creepy looking kids, a lot of close-ups with a sharp shrill in the score to make audiences jump (most of the time it didn’t work), a close up with a sharp shrill in the score as a ghost runs past the screen, a lot of murkiness, and just factory devices that worked ten years ago, and today’s directors seem to forget it’s not 1995. Jump scares don’t work anymore, people.

And what’s worse is all the presence and fear is taken away from the demons in the house as the ghosts are shown too much even in the beginning of the movie. The original kept the ghosts hidden in the shadows and rarely showed us their faces, thus giving them more suspense and more of a kick, while this just basically over did every aspect to it. Especially in the last minute of the movie which was not only really pointless but so utterly stupid. And speaking of over-doing it, the director makes unnecessary alterations to what made the original so likable. They turn the brace faced babysitter from the original film to a sexed up stripper porn star sitter (the delicious Rachel Nichols). Who in their right minds would hire someone like that?

It’s such an obvious device to keep the male audience at attention. And, sad to say, it didn’t work on me. What, in god’s name, was the point of the sexed up babysitter? And why was the theme of pedophilia added with her character? There’s a very inappropriate scene that literally made me cringe as she lays on the bed asking if James’ character French’s. “But Felix,” you say, “she’s hot!” It’s still pedophilia. Perhaps in the seventies it was considered cool, but this is now, and I considered it very inappropriate especially for a movie that had no need for such a scene. Imagine if the roles would have been reversed? Grown man in twelve year old’s bed asking if she French’s. Not so cool, is it? In fact, it’s creepy. As was the scene with Nichol’s, and the director generally reflects that with her characters addition.

It didn’t make a lick of sense, nor did it seem to hold a relevance to the story, and furthermore, the scene with the closet is again way overdone as it goes from pretty creepy from the original, to so overdone in this and it had me laughing. And yes, even after the babysitter goes nuts in the closet, and the kids begin crying sensing something is wrong, and the family begin seeing things–still–they don’t leave. Just get out, for god sake. What makes the movie is continuously altered as we go through the plot really quickly which is evident by the hour and a half mark. George starts changing way too fast. There’s no room for establishment of his character, for his character, for his personality, for the beginning of his change and it just speeds through the story too fast, and Reynolds can be pretty humorous when he’s attempting to be angry. His characters deteriorating sanity is too rapid, thus it isn’t believable, and the whole barking dog talking to George was so ridiculous, this is Amityville, not son of Sam. They then suck the essence from Cathy’s character with zero emphasis and they take away her religious aspect of her character.

The original film had Cathy as a religious woman whose faith was being put to the test but here, she’s just a yokel who begins getting haunted with no real depth. Rod Steiger’s way over the top character is replaced with Phillip Baker Hall who gives a more subdued performance. But they’re both still just plot devices under the grain of their concept. The whole scene with the flies goes from pretty ridiculous ala Steiger, to really ridiculous ala Phillip Baker Hall. And what’s funny is in the original the priest tried to help the family, but here all he does is runs away and never comes back to the house. Now that’s a smart guy, in fact, he’s the only smart one in the entire movie.

And further proof of it being rushed is it going from Day 1, to Day 5, to Day 15? Where’s the build-up and anticipation? Would it have hurt to have some character exposition? Audiences do still have a brain, I assume. Every bit is capped off by a wasteful climax that fails to provide any originality and zero resourcefulness. Well, as you would guess, it’s crap, but it’s likable crap with occasional bright spots. However the bright spots are few and far between, so ultimately it’s a really bad remake, for a bad movie and not an improvement. Bring on the next crap remake, and I’ll mow it down too.