Director: Andrew Douglas
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jimmy Bennett
Run Time: 1 hour 22 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Here we are, folks. The end of the line. Well, actually that’s not accurate. This is my stop. The line continues to stretch on into oblivion, because huckster filmmakers will keep on exploiting the Amityville name until either the art of cinema comes to an end or the heat death of the universe plunges us into eternal darkness, whichever comes first. What we can – for lack of a better word – call the “pure” Amityville franchise ends here, with the high-gloss studio remake of 2005, smack dab in the middle of the tremendous new millennium run of godawful remakes of classic horror titles. Most of these were shepherded into existence by Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes, and oh – would you look at that title card.
Generally speaking, remakes tend to put to rest even the most robust of franchises. We haven’t revisited Crystal Lake or Elm Street since they were interred by their respective Platinum Dunes reboots, and a franchise as rickety as Amityville couldn’t stack up to those giants. So it went the way of Freddy and Jason. Mostly.
You see, unfortunately for the general populace, six years later turbo-indie filmmakers cottoned on to the fact that a town’s name ain’t copyrightable, so slapping the word into the title of their chintzy microbudget ghost project was a ticket to earning a couple extra bucks. Since 2011, one or two faux-Amityville projects have seeped into the market from its darkest, dankest corners every year, with a whopping four dropped onto the world like an anvil in 2016 alone (The Amityville Terror, Amityville: No Escape, Amityville: Vanishing Point, and The Amityville Legacy. I’m exhausted just listing them).
As much of a completist as I am, I don’t consider these universally ignored, artistically anemic works as movies, let alone viable entries into a dotty but venerable franchise. I feel no shame about ignoring them and sparing my already ailing patience. You wouldn’t want to read that much useless bile anyway, and I’ve already wasted my breath on the little-seen back half of this marathon, which nobody needed to be warned away from anyway. So! The buck stops here.
The house screamed “Get Out!” and for once, I’m going to heed that warning.
I daresay we’re pretty familiar with the plot of The Amityville Horror at this point. In the mid-70’s,, newlywed couple Kathy (Melissa George) and George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds) find a home with a price they can’t refuse in Amityville, Long Island. They move in with Kathy’s three children (the most important being played by Chloë Grace Moretz in her film debut) and naught but 28 days later are driven out by the same demonic forces that caused a boy to murder his family with a shotgun just a year earlier, who this time have their sights set on corrupting George.
The same general plot beats and scare gags play out, with a few notable exceptions:
- The addition of a rooftop setpiece they loved so damn much they used it twice
- Liberal application of a shirtless, wet-whenever-possible Ryan Reynolds
- Not only is the ghost Jodie not a sinister invisible presence, she might as well get third billing
- It’s hella dumb.
Platinum Dunes strikes again.
To be honest, I was convinced that a remake with a shirtless Ryan Reynolds could only have been an improvement on the original Amityville Horror. I found that film incredibly tedious and lackluster, and the run time of the new version was already a massive improvement. The propaganda artists who wrote the back of the box would have you believe that the film is 90 minutes long, but it clocks out at a fleet hour and twenty, lopping a good 40 minutes off the 1979 entry.
While that was always and continues to be the right decision, every other choice the filmmakers made seems to have been the wrong one. I’m completely used to and even enjoy some sequels and remakes where the ethos is “the same thing, only worse,” but when the original thing was already pretty bad, this all just becomes incredibly punishing.
Amityville ’05 is mirthlessly stupid, top to bottom. It has one of my favorite hallmarks of dumb movies (Melissa George reads aloud the headlines on the microfiche she’s investigating, in case you weren’t paying attention) but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, baby! This is a film where shining a flashlight into someone’s face knocks them over like a bowling pin, and where their solution to the haunted house problem is to take a boat and sail to the middle of a lake (in full view of the house, mind you), as if they saw the end of Friday the 13th and were impressed by Alice’s genius decision-making.
Literally, they just sit on a boat and wait to see if Ryan Reynolds decides to kill them or not. This is beyond stupid Horror Movie Decision-Making, it borders on literal child abuse.
It’s hard to pinpoint the primary problem with the movie, because there’s just so damn many of them. The one that bothered me the most though was how brutally unsubtle the whole thing is. I already touched on how Jodie has been converted from an offscreen menacing presence to a bloated CGI-laden spook who pops in every ten minutes or so for some of the goofiest fright gags you ever did see, but another scene that really ruffles my feathers is the following:
Ryan Reynolds is outside, chopping wood and being sexy. Melissa George runs out, frantically asking where their daughter is! It has been in no way established that he was supposed to be watching her. For all we knew, she’s been chilling in the house this whole time. But now, we’re suddenly supposed to care about this dunderheaded scene that leads to a frightfully silly non-scare that assumes that because Chloë Grace is standing on a boat, she must be in danger(?). None of it makes any sense, but it’s so brutally injected into the screenplay that it isn’t even supported by any sort of context. It just is, and what it is is moronic.
I will admit that there’s one incredibly effective jump scare buried in the mire here, so the movie has that going for it. But the rest of the scares are so effortful that they misjudge their impact and clang uselessly against the screen. The camera goes wild, swopping and whirling in an unnecessarily complicated display that hopes to distract us from the fact that refrigerator magnets moving around isn’t a super scary thing.
The one thing that could have salvaged any sort of atmosphere was the lead performances. Ryan Reynolds is a performer I generally like, and Melissa George is… Melissa George. But they both fumble the ball here. Reynolds especially lets his beard do most of the acting for him. He’s charming in the first act as a handsome, hopeful newlywed, but his descent into madness is accompanied by some of the worst horror movie screaming I’ve ever seen. He yips like a dog, adding extra aftershock screams after long pauses, each yelp a painful stab into your brain.
Amityville ’05 is just exhausting. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it has the wisdom to use Reynolds’ shirtless body as a crutch during some of the shakier scenes, but other than maybe The Amityville Curse, this is the biggest waste of time in the entire franchise, and that is not something I expected to be saying when the marathon finally swung back around to a movie with an actual budget.
TL;DR: The Amityville Horror is a horror film by blunt force trauma, a brutally unsubtle exercise in pointless remaking.
Word Count: 1303
Reviews In This Series
The Amityville Horror (Rosenberg, 1979)
Amityville II: The Possession (Damiani, 1982)
Amityville 3-D (Fleischer, 1983)
Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (Stern, 1989)
The Amityville Curse (Berry, 1990)
Amityville 1992: It's About Time (Randel, 1992)
Amityville: A New Generation (Murlowski, 1993)
Amityville Dollhouse (White, 1996)
The Amityville Horror (Douglas, 2005)