Sunday, October 23, 2005

DVD: The Amityville Horror (2005)

Genre: Incompetent horror remakes
Released: April 15, 2005
Director: Andrew Douglas
Verdict: &1/2

Ah, October. The time of year when pumpkins are splattered, long sleeves have their coming out and bad horror films get a couple of weeks of reverence. Anyone looking to pluck one of these nuggets from the video store shelves for Halloween viewing would do well to skip the 2005 retread of The Amityville Horror, a remake that's all gussied up for 15-year-olds with younger lead actors (Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George as George and Kathy Lutz), unnecessary gore and equally unnecessary noise. Enough rumbling bass accompanies each predictable gotcha sequence to make you uncomfortable, even if what's happening onscreen doesn't. But it probably will unsettle in unintended ways: For instance, there's no descent into madness for George Lutz; we see Reynolds staring into the furnace and fiercely chopping wood, and suddenly he's hearing voices that tell him to kill them all, just like his predecessor in this New York home with the menacing bedroom windows. Furthermore, who, at this point, is still chilled by a young child speaking of an unseen friend that the adults dismiss as imaginary? There is no subtlety here and no foreshadowing in this film's meager 80 minutes beyond the realtor declining to descend into the basement and George Lutz observing in an early scene that the room is cold. In a big, old house like this, shouldn't we at least have some creaking floorboards or noises in the attic before ghastly figures appear in mirrors and Mr. Lutz chops up the dog? These opportunities are missed, yet the film takes the time to add a completely unnecessary back-story for the source of the haunting. The original's portal to hell in the basement managed to be much scarier without showing people hanging by hooks in their skin. I will, however, concede a couple of inspired moves here, including the introduction of a slutty babysitter who has a history in the home and the use of Philip Baker Hall (Seinfeld's library cop) as Father Callaway. The sizzling of the holy water as it hits surfaces is a nice touch, and the Father Callaway sequence should have been longer. By the time Mrs. Lutz and the children stumble upon the newly made pine boxes with their names on them in the basement, this is more comedy than horror; the only mystery is how much noise and gore first-time director Andrew Douglas will thrust upon us in the conclusion to remind us that this is a horror movie. // DVD extras // C'mon, do you really care? There's quite a selection of deleted scenes.

// Next weekend's DVD review //
The Ring Two

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