The Amityville Horror

2005, Movie, R, 89 mins

Review

AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE
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"Houses don't kill people — people kill people," says the overly optimistic George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds) as he and his new wife, Kathy (Melissa George), decide to buy an irresistibly underpriced house in Amityville, Long Island, even though a family of six was slaughtered there a year earlier. But the rambling Dutch colonial at 112 Ocean Avenue has major bad mojo, and within days the ready-made Lutz family — widowed Kathy has three children, Billy (Jesse James), Chelsea (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Michael (Jimmy Bennett) — is seriously spooked. Chelsea finds a new friend in a little girl ghost named Jodie (Isabel Conner) and after the new baby-sitter (Rachel Nichols) spills the beans about the DeFeo murders to Billy and Michael, she has an experience in Chelsea's closet that's so terrifying she has to be taken away in an ambulance. George, tormented by unrelenting cold, bloodshot eyes and nightmares of murder, starts chopping firewood in the yard with alarming ferocity, clearly one whack away from going Lizzie Borden on his family. Even the relentlessly upbeat Kathy begins glimpsing disturbing shadows out of the corner of her eye. She asks a local priest (Philip Baker Hall) for help, but when he attempts to exorcise whatever malevolent spirit or spirits reside in the house he's attacked by a swarm of flies and ordered out by a supernatural voice. The real George Lutz publicly denounced this slick scare machine as "drivel" and "pure sophistry." But even if his protests weren't tainted either by involvement with a rival Amityville project or the aspersions cast on the authenticity of the Lutzes' experiences ever since Jay Anson's book about them was published in 1977, the real problem is that it's such an unimaginative rehash. Produced by Michael Bay and written by Scott Kolar, who collaborated on the 2004 TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake, this reworking of the 1979 shocker cherry-picks the horror canon, lifting and recycling bits from films as diverse as THE SHINING (1979), THIR13EN GHOSTS (2001) and various incarnations of THE RING — in the original book and movie, Jodie was a demonic pig rather than a malevolent, whey-faced child ghost. While the film's seriousness and R-rated brutality are a welcome change from the self-referential gags SCREAM (1996) unleashed on American horror movies, first-time feature director Andrew Douglas, whose advertising background is evident in every frame, brings lashings of style but no sense of real horror to the recycled script. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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