The Amityville Horror
- Ryan Reynolds as George Lutz
- Melissa George as Kathy Lutz
- Jesse James as Billy Lutz
- Jimmy Bennett as Michael Lutz
- Chloë Grace Moretz as Chelsea Lutz
- Philip Baker Hall as Father Callaway
- Rachel Nichols as Lisa
A remake of the 70’s film, which itself was allegedly based on a true haunting, The Amityville Horror is a surprisingly good watch. It’s got a share of flaws, but it is far from the badness I was expecting before I put it on.
The year is 1975 and George and Kathy Lutz are a married couple looking for a new house. Kathy has three children, Billy, Michael and Chelsea from a previous marriage and she is carefully integrating George into the children’s lives as they lost their father years before. On the house hunting front, Kathy and George come across a large house in Amityville, on the south shore of Long Island. George is surprised that such a house is up for a reasonable price, but Kathy has her heart set on it. They are both informed of a horrible incident in the house’s past: a year prior, Ronald DeFeo Jr, a resident of the house, murdered his family before later claiming that voices drove him to do it. Though a little hesitant after hearing this news, the couple move in and decide to make a go of things. Things start to go south quite quickly, especially in the case of George. He, along with the other members of the family, begins experiencing unexplained phenomena. Strange whispers seem to travel through the air vents. The boat house opens, despite being locked by George. Young Chelsea claims to have befriended a young girl named Jodie, who may well be a ghost of one of those slain. And most scary of all of that, the usually genial George morphs into a snarling brute who verbally abuses and torments his family. The house appears to be causing this for everyone, as evil sprouts from every corner with malevolent motives for haunting them. Even the local priest who tries to perform an exorcism is scared off by the increasingly creepy house. An alarmed Kathy fights to survive this building terror and is forced into drastic action to save herself, her husband and children from the house that clearly has evil in mind for all. Yet while the spooky events that besiege the family point to the possible spectres of the murdered family, there is something a lot more sinister in the house from centuries before that also won’t rest.
The direction from Andrew Douglas is largely successful in utilizing the oppressive landscape of he house to score jolts of terror and suspense. It’s not the finest directing as it could do with a little embellishing, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. The pacing of The Amityville Horror is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the relatively short running time does speed things on. Yet this is sometimes at the expense of character development, which isn’t helped by the occasionally by the numbers script. I think the goodness of the film wins out however over the parts that flounder. Every horror cliché in the book can be glimpsed here, yet while it is a noticeable thing, it should be noted that horror is often a genre that relies on a certain set of rules and expectations. And on that score, The Amityville makes a decent fist of it. Nothing revelatory or earth-shattering takes place and sometimes there are hints of unevenness, though the film doesn’t stumble there as it isn’t going out of its way to showcase anything newfangled. So while it is somewhat routine, I have to defend the film by saying that I have seen many horror films that are a lot worse, allowing this one to edge into good territory rather than the rubbish bin. I appreciated the use of effects as the vast majority of them felt a lot more practical than many of the contemporary horrors we have. There is moments of blood and splatter that purposefully unsettle, but The Amityville Horror generates most of the shocks through old-fashioned techniques. It must be stated that I was genuinely surprised at how much I actually liked this film. It’s not going to go down as a major classic and it is far from a masterwork, but as clichéd as it is I will admit to being scared and excited by the film which is what I crave from a horror film. It has some pretty great moments of terror, specifically when the babysitter gets trapped in a closet and is traumatised by the ghostly presence she sees. Also a well-edited sequence in which Kathy and George begin to unravel the abhorrent horror that occurred in the house via different methods is a good tension builder, exhibiting a frantic cut back and forth that eventually converges with the revelation. A creepy score does what it is supposed to do in capturing the horror of what befalls the family.
Despite the often sketchy script, the vast of The Amityville Horror acquit themselves nicely and bring out more than the screenplay calls for. The usual goofiness and charisma of Ryan Reynolds is well used here, especially as the character of George is initially an amiable guy who gets slowly driven insane by the house. Reynolds wouldn’t have been the first person I thought of for this kind of film, but he pulls it off very well as George’s mental faculties are tested through the haunting. Melissa George is reliably good as the alarmed wife, who begins to worry for the safety of her family at the expense of the sinister house. There is something very genuine about George’s work here, she reacts to the events like any mother would with a protective and decisive streak that won’t be quashed. The three actors playing the children in the film are quite good, with a young Chloë Grace Moretz standing out as the daughter who encounters something ghostly first. Philip Baker Hall does some good work as the priest who is terrified of the house and what it may possess. In the brief time that she is on screen, Rachel Nichols is well used in the aforementioned closet scene where she is terrified out of her wits.
Far from amazing yet way above what I was intending it to be, The Amityville Horror gets the job done efficiently and with some great touches to craft a creepy feeling.