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THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Philip Baker Hall
Director:  Andrew Douglas
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  89 Minutes
Release Date: 
September 14, 2010

"...kill them..."

Film *

The Amityville Horror was a story that became the sensation of its time.  It was the tale of George and Kathy Lutz, her three children, and a dog.  They moved into a beautiful Long Island home where, a while back, a teen had gone crazy and murdered his entire family.  28 days after moving in, they fled, never reclaiming their possessions.  Their story of supernatural horror became a bestselling novel, and eventually, a hit film.

The problem was, of course, that it was all a hoax.  Not that it matters when it comes to weaving a scary tale (see:  Blair Witch Project), but I feel compelled to bring it up because the remake begins "Based on the True Story".  Then, watching the extras, everyone involved in the film are obviously STILL trying to sell us on the premise that the tale is true, even though it was proven false decades ago and the Lutzes admitted their deception.  They're like those people who still say there was no Saddam Hussein/al Qaeda connection, even though dozens of links have been indisputably documented. 

What makes people try to deceive the masses in the face of overwhelming evidence of truth?  In the case of this movie, it might have been the knowledge that they didn't end up with much of a final product.  If the filmmakers could therefore convince a few unsuspecting, gullible people that the chilling tale was based on reality, it might equate to a few more dollars that would have otherwise gone by the wayside.

I knew when I saw the original Amityville Horror that the story was a fakery.  What did it matter?  It was still one of the scariest films I'd ever seen.  Still is.  By the time that movie came out, the hoax had been stripped bare...yet horror films don't need something flimsy like a "supposed" true story to get them connected.  They just want to be frightened out of their wits, spill their popcorn, and grip the hand of the attractive person sitting next to them.

The remake of The Amityville Horror offers none of those pleasures, so even IF the story were as true as they purport it to be, it wouldn't matter.  The illusions within the film fail, so the illusions outside of it are rendered impotent.  It proves nothing new...though it does seem to reiterate the point that remakes of classic horror movies are often answers to questions nobody asked.  Think of Dawn of the Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but not even at the level of those.

George (Reynolds) and Kathy (George) are newly married and starting a family with her three kids from a previous marriage.  When they stumble across the great fašade of the house in Amityville, it seems like a blessing, especially considering the unbelievable deal.  But things go awry, as a terrible presence once blamed for causing a multiple murder in the house seems still alive and well, and ready to wreak havoc on the new family.  They say a man's home is his castle, but this is one palace that's about to turn upside down thanks to the madness of King George.

It's not an exact copy of the original movie...in fact, one or two ideas seem pleasantly fresh, and expand on ideas hinted at in the first film.  Others are weak attempts to re-invent.  The original opening gave us the back story of the murders with a shot of the outside of the house and flashes of light in the windows.  Simple, yet chilling.  But the new version actually shows the murders in graphic detail.  Bloodier?  Yes.  Scarier?  More effective?  Neither

But there are other problems galore.  There is no rhythm here.  First time feature director Andrew Douglas came from music videos and commercials, and his chop-chop approach to assembling footage is on full display here.  Only one sequence truly built suspense...a little rooftop adventure that was well crafted and put together.

The rest of the film plays like a journey without a map...there's a point A and a point B, but no clear cut way to get from one to the other.  I never quite bought Ryan Reynolds as mad and dangerous.  I guess he just lacked that quietly unfocused and menacing quality James Brolin had.  Melissa George is lovely but bland.  I don't know how much to fault the actors...the creators just gave them a dry lemon and asked them to squeeze some juice out of it.

Unlike its predecessor, The Amityville Horror remake won't haunt my dreams or keep my nerves jangled.  It barely made a dent in my memory cells.  I'll probably be remembering the fact that the filmmakers tried to make me believe in a "true story" long proved false longer than I remember the actual movie.

Video ****

This is a great example of horror on Blu-ray, at least in the visual department.  When you see a fright flick, you expect lots of dark scenes, and you hope that they'll come through with detail and clarity despite a lack of lighting.  This high definition transfer delivers superbly.  Images are cleanly rendered and sharp, even when things get dim.  Coloring is natural and vibrant throughout.  No complaints.

Audio ****

If you expect a lot out of a DTS HD track for a horror movie, you won't be disappointed here.  Fox has definitely upped the ante with a constantly impressive audio offering that makes bold use of lossless technology to suck you in to the terrors at hand.  The ambient effects and subwoofer do more to keep you on edge than the actual script does, and when the going gets rough, the dynamic range proves potent.

Features **

I had to dock the score in this department for sheer laziness.  Despite Blu-ray's storage capabilities, someone decided rather than back the high definition disc with available extras, they would just include the original DVD release as a second disc.  So if you want to watch the movie with superior picture and sound, you can, but if you want to see what else is offered, you have to switch discs.  Very poor form.

On the DVD, you get a commentary with Ryan Reynolds (as I suspected, he's far too nice to be a raving madman) along with the producers.  It's an enjoyable listen.  There are also 8 deleted scenes, a photo gallery, multi-angle on-set peeks, and two featurettes.  One is on the original Amityville murders, another is a look at the making of the film. 

Summary:

The Amityville Horror might have been better served not to have indulged in so obvious a gimmick, but with or without it, this is a substandard film.  I only hope that if it gets revisited again in 30 years they'll either leave the "reality" out of it, or at least spice it up with a line like "Now...truer than ever before!"  If I haven't already retired by then...I will.

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