The Amityville Horror (2005)

Andrew Douglas

Ryan Reynolds - George Lutz
Melissa George - Kathy Lutz
Jesse James - Billy
Chloe Grace Moretz - Chelsea
Rachel Nichols - Lisa
Isabel Conner - Jodie DeFeo

Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Haunted House

Running Time - 89 Minutes

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4

In 1977, a bestselling book written by Jay Anson called The Amityville Horror was on the bestseller list. Dealing with a haunted house on Long Island, New York, the "true story" of George and Kathy Lutz captivated a lot of people. Apparently, a family called the DeFeo were brutally murdered into that Amityville house in 1974 by the eldest son Butch "Ronnie" DeFeo. Butch had murdered them all with gunshots, without a neighbor hearing them. Butch claimed that demonic forces inside the house told him to kill his family. No one is sure whether that's true or not.

A year later, the Lutz family moved into the house because it was sold for a cheap price. Eventually, the Lutz family were also terrorized by these demonic forces inside the house. They lasted 28 days living there before leaving in the middle of the night without their personal belongings.

Due to the popularity of horror films dealing with the Devil or demons, like ROSEMARY'S BABY, THE EXORCIST, and THE OMEN, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR was turned into a film in 1979 starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder. It was a huge success, spawning 8 sequels that no one really needed.
However, things didn't add up once the popularity of the story set in. Apparently author Jay Anson wrote the story without talking to the Lutz family, pretty much fabricating the entire thing. The smaller characters involved, such as the priest who supposedly was a victim inside of the house, claimed he sensed no evil inside the house. Even Butch DeFeo's lawyer claimed that Butch and George Lutz created the story themselves in order to cash in on book and film rights, eventually leading to Lutz admitting that only some of the story was indeed true.

So why a remake of a "true" story in 2005? Because Michael Bay needs money and after putting some in his pocket after THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake of 2003 [which I actually liked as its own film and not a remake], he decided to recreate THE AMITYVILLE HORROR for a newer generation. Starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, the remake has more to do with the 1979 film than with the Anson book itself. Is it needed? Absolutely not. But I can't say that I didn't like it.

Butch "Ronnie" DeFeo murders his entire family in 1974 in a house settled in Amityville, New York. In 1975, contractor George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds) and his new wife Kathy (Melissa George) find the very same house for sale, deciding to buy it as a new start for them and Kathy's three kids. The moment they move in, however, they are all subject to supernatural things occurring in the house. Especially George, who becomes more crazy and menacing by the day, and little Chelsea (Chloe Grace Moretz), who's imaginary friend Jodie (Isabel Conner) happens to be one of the DeFeo's who was murdered a year prior. Kathy begins to understand what's going on in the house and what it's doing to her family, knowing that once their 28th day there, George will kill all of them.

The 2005 version of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR is surprisingly pretty good entertainment. I had put it off for two years because I hate the remake trend that Hollywood is high on these days, but I gotta give credit to a remake that actually does some good things. I liked the original THE AMITYVILLE HORROR but it's far from my favorite horror films. While the performances were good, I thought it was a bit too slow, boring, and not at all scary. Personally, I like AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION more than I do the original, but that's just me. And while THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005) isn't going to be a classic like the 1979 original, I actually enjoyed it more than its counterpart.

One of the major reasons I enjoyed this version a bit more was Ryan Reynold's portrayal of George Lutz. In the original, I didn't really find James Brolin scary as he turned from nice husband and father into crazy serial killer. It just wasn't that effective for me for some reason. Ryan Reynolds, I thought, did a much better job with the role. While the change was a bit too quick and unbelievable, I'll admit, I thought Reynolds handled it with class. The dude was pretty chilling when he turned evil. I'm so used to the guy doing comedies and making sarcastic jokes all the time that it was quite a shock when he played it homicidal. The look in his eyes and his body language was extremely effective and I bought it. VAN WILDER was gone. This dude was freakin' nuts. Especially during the scenes with him and his trusty axe with Billy (Jesse James) holding the log. If he was my stepdad and he acted like that with me, I would have ran away. I'll be damned if that dude chopped my hands off because he's not all there. His parenting skills gave me the creeps! Reynolds made the film for me. I've always been a huge fan of the dude and this portrayal made me a bigger one. Great job, Mr. Reynolds!

I also loved the cinematography of the film. Very crisp and clear, you can see every bit of detail in the film. Shadows were great. I loved the browns. Reynolds' bloodshot eyes were as clear as day, which made him more intimidating. It's just an extremely beautiful looking film. And the sound was crisp too. Technically, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR is a very well-made movie. Very professional.

I also liked the fact that the film was very quick paced. Not so much the quick cuts, which annoy me more and more as I see them, although they weren't so badly done here. But the original was just very slow and it kind of took out of that film. I don't mind setting up things like atmosphere and mood, but it just took too long to do it. This film moves at a brisker pace to get its point across, while still maintaining some atmosphere and mood. The "boo" moments are more effective here than in the original as well, although I wasn't scared at all. But at least there was an attempt here with great imagery and well timed jump cuts, so I'll give the film its due.

The main problem with this film is the story itself. The script wasn't that well-developed, leaving me not really caring for these characters except for George and maybe Kathy. I mean, they did things that made me scratch my head. Why would you even buy a house where some maniac murdered his entire family? Especially when it's being sold cheap? Doesn't that tell you something? And when the daughter, Chelsea, kept trying to kill herself because Jodie told her it would help her see her father multiple times - don't you think maybe it's time to change the child's environment? And Kathy wondering why George is acting strange after she saw refrigerator magnets that read "KETCHEM KILLEM" - um, I would have left that place right there. I mean, none of these people couldn't have realized that something strange was inside that house. I mean, Kathy saw George practically abusing her own children. Do something, lady! They just didn't feel like a family, like in the original. They felt like random people put together in a house to suffer and be tortured one-by-one. I mean, that's fine in SAW II, but not in a film like this.

And the writers tried to scare us with this story about Native Americans being tortured in that very house hundreds of years ago and they're the ones who are possessing the families who live inside the house. I mean, how many times can I see a film about an "evil" house that doesn't involve Native Americans? I was expecting the short lady from POLTERGEIST to pop up and tell me that there's an Native American burial underground underneath the house's foundation. It's not scary. There was no reason given to make it scary. Seeing children get verbally abused and animals being killed [poor dog] doesn't scare me either. It pisses me off. It's sad because there's a great ghost story trying to be told here. It's just that the right person hasn't been able to make it effective enough. Plus, it doesn't help that we've already seen this before. The unknown is what makes us scared. What's the point in trying when we've already know what's gonna happen?

The direction by Andrew Douglas was okay. He loved angles and nice sound tricks to "frighten" people. But too much cutting ruined his momentum, as we never got to see something long enough to identify with it. But the film, again, looked nice and was quite gloomy to look at. I've seen worse.

And the acting was very good. I already mentioned Ryan Reynolds, but Melissa George handled herself very well. She was quite the looker and she reacted to things very believably acting-wise, not script-wise. The child actors didn't annoy me, which was a plus. And babysitter Rachel Nichols was also good in a sassy way. She was fine by me. Honestly, the acting was the best part about this film. Too bad the script didn't allow the actors to do more than they were capable of.

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005) is one of the better horror remakes out there. At a short running time [89 minutes], beautiful picture, and good acting [especially by Ryan Reynolds], this film is definitely worth a rental if you haven't seen it yet. Nothing more, nothing less. It's a harmless film that should have never been made. To be quite honest, that's more true than the actual story this was inspired by. Now someone call Ty Pennington and destroy this house with a wrecking ball. Maybe that'll stop any more stories about Amityville from being told.

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