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The Amityville Horror

Andrew Douglas, USA, 2005

Rating: 2.9

 

Posted: April 21, 2005

If Iíve said it once, Iíve said it a hundred timesÖ okay, maybe not a hundred times, but I know Iíve said it before. Remakes are tricky. Remakes of films that are a cornerstone of their genre are especially tricky. Remember Dawn of the Dead? Like it or not, The Amityville Horror is one of the classics of modern horror cinema. When you ask someone to name a classic haunted house film, chances are Amityville will be right at the top of the list. We all know the story. If not, check out my review of the original before proceeding.

Ryan Reynolds has taken over the role of George Lutz (made famous by James Brolin). In real life, Ryan is engaged to Alanis Morissette, so I for one will not question his bravery; brother's gonna find out about haunted houses soon enough. I gotta give Ryan some love here. He does a pretty decent job of recreating the character without doing an exact re-enactment of Brolinís descent into madness, or taking it so far off the path that he takes himself right out of the film. He portrays the role in a manner that makes it seem new, but not unfamiliar, if that makes any sense. Well done, Van Wilder!

The í05 Amityville comes in at a very lean 89 minutes, while the original lasted 117 minutes (didnít think I did any research, did you?!). While I usually decry excessive character development in a horror movie, for once, Iím going to take the other side. In the original, Georgeís slide into demonic madness was a slow but ever-growing concern. Here, after about 15 minutes, George is already on a slippery slope to killing his family. But hey, when you got 89 minutes (three or four of which is probably credits rolling), you gotta get busy. Itís not a deal-breaker, but the accelerated pace is noticeable.

There are the familiar dark hallways and creepy voices, and cheap scares, but there's nothing new here, save that the new version tries to explain in painstaking detail the history of the house and the origin of its evil. I donít wanna spoil it for ya, but it turns out there was a reverend who lived there long ago and you certainly donít need me to tell you how creepy reverends can be.

Oh yeah, before I forget: Thanks to Jacobís Ladder, frenetic head shaking has become a staple of supernatural tales. You know the movie I mean, the one where the dudeís head shakes from left to right about 115 times in a second. (That movie also proved just how creepy Macauley Culkin could be, long before he grew into the grotesque homunculus he is today. Seriously, there should be a law preventing child actors from turning 18, sort of like the setup in Logan's Run. Haley Joel Osment, take note!)

Anyway, I digress. In an effort to include two of the most memorable scenes from the original, Amityville í05 forces in the scene with the babysitter locked in the closet. This time however, the original retainer-wearing babysitter has been replaced with a totally hot, tree-smoking hippie chick straight outta the 70ís when love was free, bras were not required attire, andÖ. uh, sorry. The other scene is the infamous blessing of the house, which initiates a swarm of flies that envelopes a priest. Sadly, the filmmakers were not able to work in a vomiting nun anywhere, and I think the film suffers for that omission.

But is it scary? Well, thatís a very subjective call. Seasoned connoisseurs of the horror arts will find nary a hair turning shock-white. Pantaloon-wearing fops like our own Laurence Station, on the other hand, might want to stock up on the Grecian formula.

Overall, Amityville í05 relies on clichťd scares and creepy music, and thus lacks the punch of the original, which, like so many horror classics, did more with less. Itís like a new model of an old car that has slightly changed its lines, as opposed to a fresh and creative redesign. Remakes have a lot going against them before they ever hit the screen, and Amityville í05 is able to overcome some, but not all, of those obstacles.

But people love to be scared and they will hit these flicks even for one or two moments of terror, and as I said already, that is a subjective thing. To some, terror is a demonic spirit haunting a house. To others, it's being trapped in a restroom in a Juarez bar with a crusty, ham-handed, syphilitic circus clown. To Macauley Culkin, terror is those recurring dreams recalling long nights spent in the hot tub at Neverland with Jacko, Bubbles the chimp and Corey Feldman.

Fans of the original should check out this flick just for comparative purposes, if nothing else. If you return from the film and feel like killing your family, then obviously it spoke to you. Unless you're a member of our Editor-in-Chief Kevin Moreau's family, in which case you probably have those urges all the time.

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
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