Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
The Amityville Horror
General Audiences: D
Remake of the classic 1979 haunted-house movie of the same name. However, this updated version includes bad acting, one scene of gratuitous sex, drug use and a bounty of foul language.
Family Audiences: Rated R
From the folks who brought you The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not recommended for children, teens or the family dog.
If you’re old enough, you may remember seeing the original Amityville Horror starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder. Oddly enough, 10 years after making the film, Kidder was found cowering in a cluster of shrubbery far from her home, claiming voices told her to hide there because something was trying to get her.
Amityville is a tale, it seems, that extends beyond the silver screen.
The Amityville Horror is based on the true story of George and Kathy Lutz. In 1975 the young, working-class couple purchased an old home in Amityville, Long Island, at a bargain-basement price that turned out to be no bargain at all.
A year earlier, Ronald DeFeo Jr., a psychopath, had methodically executed his entire family in that house.
Four weeks after moving in, the Lutzes abruptly abandoned the place, leaving all their worldly possessions behind. They never returned to pick up a single item. When asked what happened, they claimed that while in the house they experienced nightmarish visions, heard haunting voices, and their daughter Chelsea began having conversations with an imaginary friend named Jodie. However, according to Kathy Lutz, the real kicker was her husband’s slow descent into a pattern of strange behavior while spending a great deal of time in the basement.
Sadly, this newest Amityville remake fails to exploit the ample fodder provided by these real events and resorts instead to bad taste and worn out plot devices.
Director Andrew Douglas’ formula for snagging a young audience includes the husband (played by Ryan Reynolds) and the family’s babysitter, who spews language that would offend prison inmates.
In some scenes the use of obscenities is so out of place and outrageous that the audience actually laughs.
Not that I mind humor, but too much laughter turns a horror film into pure camp—and this film wastes no time getting on the camp wagon.
During the Lutzes initial walk-through at the house, their Realtor sees an apparition flash across a door opening and pretends she doesn’t, ostensibly to close the deal. Spontaneous laughter broke out from the audience at this point.
In the back of your head you’re thinking: Is this a spoof on haunted-house films? In another scene, the babysitter walks in dressed like a hooker, lies on 12-year-old Billy Lutz’s bed and asks him if he French kisses. The audience roared with laughter during this unbelievable scenario.
After a few weeks in the haunted house, Mr. Lutz gets mean with the kids, kills the dog and verbally abuses his wife. We never see him go to work. All he does is chop wood all day in his pajamas. You’re not sure if he’s taking his frustration out on the family because he can’t make the house payment or because the sole means of heating the house is a furnace that requires two cords of wood per day to keep the house warm.
Unfortunately, Mr. Lutz is not the only family member adjusting to the new digs.
Chelsea misses her deceased father so much that her imaginary friend convinces her to walk on the roof a few too many times so she can reunite with dad. Mrs. Lutz puts two and two together and concludes the house is pure evil. She seeks out a local priest and he returns to the poltergeist house to perform an exorcism.
I won’t give away the rest in the event you actually want to see this film. And, to be fair, there are a few novel scary moments in The Amityville Horror, including a ceiling-clutching scene in a closet.
If you want a well-made, fearsome haunted-building horror film, watch The Shining instead.