The Amityville Horror Reviewed
You know, I can pin a cotton ball on my butt, glue two corn cobs to my head and breed like there’s no tomorrow, but that doesn’t make me a rabbit. The same applies to slapping “Based on a true story” at the start of a movie… especially if that movie contains all forms of whacky shenanigans like the undead, spirits and former Home and Away stars.
I was tricked, DUPED I TELL YOU, into seeing this movie. In the cinema prior to the lights dimming a voice could be heard saying “GET OUT”.. it was me – but before I knew it the lights had dimmed, the curtains had opened and the movie had stared…. What manner of experience was in store for me? Horror or just horrible.. find out!
It’s a classic tale. Young family moves into what they think is their dream home only to discover that it’s built on an ancient burial ground filled with the ghosts of film editors with attention deficit disorder. This remake of the 1979 classic horror of the same name has been set upon with all the modern film making technology that it could hold. However it fairs the process surprisingly well.
Visually The Amityville Horror is in the same ball park as the Hollywood version of The Ring, which is to say that it looks amazing. This is an extremely well crafted movie from that stand point. Shots are brilliantly composed, superbly lit creating the perfect, creepy, atmosphere when needed. This is also one of the first films that I’ve seen in a long time that has a sound scape which I’ve felt deserved mention. The audio throughout The Amityville Horror is meticulously designed and works wonderfully with the visual quality of the film to help bring the audience to either the edge of their seat or send them hiding as deep into the cushions as they can get. Looking through the credits for the film, it’s not hard to see where the audio talent has been sourced from: the team consist of the likes of Robb Boyd [Man on Fire, X-Men2], Michael J. Bloomberg [Constantine, Ray, The Time Machine] and Michael Kamper [The Chronicles of Riddick, The Day After Tomorrow] to name just three in an array who’s portfolios consist of some of cinemas recent stand outs. Now, I can understand you scratching your head as to why I’ve bothered with mentioning the names of the audio designers of this movie. I understand you thinking, “Who cares?” – However such is the quality of the sound scape of this movie that it’s the one compelling reason to see (and hear) this movie while it’s still in cinemas.
From a technical stand point The Amityville Horror is a work of art. While many of the scenes are graphically disturbing, they are so because they have been meticulously crafted that way. What make this even more mind boggling is when you look at the previous credits of cinematographer Peter Lyons Collister. It’s quite a stretch to consider that the same director of photography on this movie was responsible for the mundane, television like photography in movies like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and The Beautician and the Beast. To be fair though his resume does include Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. It’s not my intention to take any of the credit for the technical wonderment of this film away from director, Andrew Douglas, but I can’t help but think that he (as a first time feature film director) has relied heavily on the talents of the people around him… well.. I mean, more so than is usually the case during the production of any film. However I can only base this in the fact that his only known previous work was for a documentary titled Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. Only time (or perhaps a member of The Amityville Horror crew) will tell us if Andrew Douglas is the talent that this movie leads me to believe that he is.
It’s my opinion that one of the most underrated US sit-coms in quite a while was a show called 2 Guys a Girl and a Pizza Place (which was later shorted to 2 guys and a Girl). One of the main characters from the show, Berg, was played by Ryan Reynolds. A guy with a natural instinct for comedy, which he later showed off in the movie Van Wilder: Party Liaison. While Ryan has played a variety of roles on both television and in film [including Blade III] his portrayal of George Lutz, the new husband and step father to the family at the center of The Amityville Horror must surely be his greatest departure from the Pizza Place days yet!
George is a nice guy. Struggling to fill the shoes of his step children’s late father and create a new life for himself and his new wife Kathy [Melissa George] he stretches the families finances to their limits to buy the dream home that Kathy has her heart set on owning.
The Amityville Horror spends little time developing the relationship between George, Kathy and the children (of which there are two boys and a girl… no pizza though) before moving them into the new home and beginning with the horror that befalls them. That’s not to say that, as a viewer, we aren’t given a good indication of who the characters are or the dynamic between them – Far from it. Ryan’s portrayal of George is believable and natural, he rapidly becomes familiar and the focus of the story. The relationship between George and Kathy is honest and believable. Any point at which the script seems to be going to a clichÃ© is quickly mastered by Ryan’s charming performance.
Having a vague memory of who Melissa George is from her days on Home and Away probably would have made me rethink seeing this movie or at least have given me a pre-conceived idea of what to expect, but luckily the film was suggested by a friend and I was given no time to research it before entering the cinema. This was a lucky break. I cannot speak highly enough of Melissa’s performance in this film – It’s heart breaking to watch her erm.. heart break.. as the story begins to tear at the loving and tender relationship that we see established early on in the film. Her performance is delicate, fragile and utterly beautiful. She manages to hold her own against Ryan’s powerful and engaging on screen transformation. I can only hope that, despite the lackluster plot of this movie, the performances of these actors are given the respect that they deserve.
Yeah.. the plot. Ultimately The Amityville Horror isn’t that scary. You’ll jump.. By god you’ll jump! But the film relies too heavily on the Doom 3 “when things jump out at you from the dark = scary” principle which, to me, isn’t so much scary as annoying.. Seriously, jumping out and going “boo” will scare me once, do it a couple more times and watch me react by punching you in the face.. Just annoying! What’s makes this particularly disappointing is that being such a visually atmospheric film, with extremely engaging performances by all on screen, it created the perfect scenario to really frighten the viewer. I don’t mean for that few moments after something creepy appeared on the screen, I mean later when you’re in bed.. in the dark.. creeping yourself out.
The story is pedestrian at best. It’s poorly told but beautifully executed, well worth seeing if you are not annoyed by people going boo, or are looking to see some great performances and impressive film making.