Thursday, June 30, 2005

Movie Review: The Amityville Horror (2005)

United States, 2005
U.S. Release Date: 4/15/05 (wide)
Running Time: 1:25
Rated: R (Violence, gore, scary images, brief nudity, sexual situations, drug use)
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloë Grace Moretz, Rachel Nichols, Philip Baker Hall

Director: Andrew Douglas
Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller
Screenplay: Scott Kosar, based on the novel by Jay Anson and the screenplay by Sandor Stern
Music: Steve Jablonsky
Studio: MGM/Dimension Films

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The Amityville Horror flashes the phrase, “Based on the True Story,” at its beginning. However, the film tests how far one can teeter with the words, “based on.” Considering only the film’s first five minutes are “based on” the actual story and the rest of the running-time is just winged to assist in raising the scare factor, The Amityville Horror is a total traitor of an adaptation. Despite it being light years ahead of its time compared to the original, The Amityville Horror doesn’t accomplish much more than a few solid frights.

While living in a large white house—considered to be cursed, Ronald Defeo slays his wife and children and then claims that voices from within his house told him to murder his family. One year later, Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) and her new husband George (Ryan Reynolds) are in the market for a new house. The couple stumbles upon a house that, at a glance, appears to be out of their price range, but in fact, it is a hellacious deal. “What’s the catch?” says George; “There is always a catch.”

This question prompts the real-estate agent to inform the man and woman that one year prior, a family was murdered in the house and the slayer said that “the house made him do it.” George retorts, “Houses don’t kill people; people kill people.” Thus, they decide to make a down payment and move in. Consequently, George soon finds himself following in Ronald Defeo’s footsteps—descending into wickedness with each passing day.

In terms of horror, The Amityville Horror is respectable. Aside from the “boo” moments, Amityville even has a few scenes that both make your skin crawl and your blood curdle. On the other hand, scares are really all The Amityville Horror has to flaunt—that is, with the exception of Ryan Reynolds’ ripped upper-body.

Ryan Reynolds fairs well in his dramatic turn. After completing several substandard comedies (Van Wilder, The In-Laws, and Blade: Trinity), here Reynolds takes on the body of a wrestler and the beard of Ryan Gosling from The Notebook. Aside from Reynolds, all of Amityville’s other acting is entirely forgettable.

With The Amityville Horror, there is a lot to complain about. For starters, the move-in montage is tasteless, and the characters’ clothes rarely fit the 1974 timeframe. Also, the story itself is anti-climactic and borders on annoying when it depicts Kathy and George each giving the children cheap advice while the other listens from outside the doorway. What’s more, the inclusion of the sexy, over-confident babysitter (Rachel Nichols) who smokes pot, is damaging to the film; it only represents a reason to further excite the film’s core audience of teenage boys. Also, why is the phrase, “Catch ‘em,” spelled with a “K?” Finally, if mainstream Hollywood incorporates one more frantic search through a local library’s archived newspapers, I will personally pen a complaint letter.

For those of you who enjoy the horror genre, Amityville will most likely do the trick. However, for the moviegoers who enjoy more substance than scares, The Amityville Horror will be yet another second-rate choice on horror rental shelves come late October. While this revamped version is an improvement on the original, it basically just provides a deeper means to fear the two quarter-circle windows that have burned themselves into everyone’s brain. (** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2005