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THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005)

Houses don't kill people. People kill people.




  Director:
 
Andrew Douglas

  Starring: 
Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jimmy Bennett, Rachel Nichols, Phillip Baker Hall, Isabel Conner, Annabel, Armour, Brendan Donaldson

  Screenplay: 
Scott Kosar, based upon the book by Jay Anson and the screenplay by Sandor Stern

Synopsis: George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds) and his wife, Kathy (Melissa George), are searching for a house to turn into a real family home for themselves and the three children from Kathys first marriage, Billy (Jesse James), Michael (Jimmy Bennett) and Chelsea (Chloë Grace Moretz). An ad in the paper sends them to Amityville, even though George insists that they cannot afford anything in that area’s price range; particularly when they see the enormous, three-storey Dutch-Colonial house that emerges from behind the trees on the isolated property. Though George warns Kathy not to show too much enthusiasm, she falls in love with the house at first sight. The price, which is ridiculously low for the property in question, is still more than the Lutzes can really afford, but impulsively George agrees that somehow they will make it work. He insists that there must be a catch somewhere, however, and reluctantly the realtor (Annabel Armour) admits that about a year before, a young man called Ronald DeFeo (Brendan Donaldson) shot and killed his parents and four siblings there. George and Kathy are disturbed by this revelation, but decide the house is still better than they ever imagined could own, and that they will go ahead. The children are thrilled by their new home; the boys share a room on the second floor, while Chelsea has a room to herself on the third. Although there is still some discomfort between George and his step-children, particularly Billy, the family settle in well - except that George always seems to feel cold. While he is working on the furnace, for a moment he thinks that he hears voices; but the obvious source, an old clock-radio reading 3.15am, is not plugged in. That night, while he and Kathy are making love, George has a brief, horrifying vision of a child hanging by her neck. It is gone an instant later; George says nothing... Kathy becomes worried about Chelsea, who now has an imaginary friend called Jodie, and who begins to draw disturbing images. Kathy also notices that Chelsea keeps glancing towards a chair in her room, although she sees nothing there... Needing to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, Michael becomes panicked by the strange sounds echoing through the vents - and then sees a horrifying image in the bathroom mirror... George jerks awake at 3.15am after a nightmare in which, having killed both boys, he shoots himself, and finds all of the house’s windows wide open. The boathouse doors are open, too, even though he carefully padlocked them. He rushes down there in case one of the children is inside, but finds nothing. However, on his way back to the house he sees a dark-haired, pale-faced girl watching him from Chelsea’s windows. But when a panicked George reaches Chelsea’s room, she is sleeping peacefully - alone. He checks her closet, just in case, but finds only an unfamiliar teddy-bear. He does not see the silent, struggling figure above his head... After some tense scenes between the family members, Kathy decides that she and George need a night out together. They leave the children with a babysitter, teenaged Lisa (Rachel Nichols), who used to sit for the DeFeos, and who terrifies Billy and Michael by telling them about the stalking and killing of the DeFeo children - and that the boys died in their room. She then takes them up to Chelsea’s room, explaining that the youngest child, Jodie, was shot and killed in the closet. A round of dares ends with Lisa entering the closet. The door then slams and locks itself - though it has no lock - and Lisa finds herself confronted by a pale, dark-haired girl with a bullet hole in her forehead...

Comments: As I said to the other B-Masters before this film was even released – I knew we were in trouble from the moment I saw that it was being advertised not as being “Based on a true story”, but “Based on THE true story”. Ignore what it says on the poster; that’s NOT what it says during the first few frames of the movie.

While it may seem contradictory, even unreasonable, to demand of a cinematic re-make that it be in some way original, it is a fact that there is a wide variety of attitudes with which a re-make may be undertaken. Perhaps the best genre example of the oxymoronic original re-make is John Carpenter’s interpretation of The Thing, which pays tribute to the wonderful Hawks / Nyby version by being unlike it in almost every way. An alternative but no less valid approach is for a film to alter a single critical aspect of its model – as, for instance (to give for once a non-genre example!), in The Deep End, a re-make of The Reckless Moment, which changes the gender of one of the main characters, and in doing so puts an entirely new spin upon the story. Not surprisingly, neither of these approaches is all that prevalent, given that they require talent, and thought, and effort. Far more common, far easier, particularly in the province of the horror film, is essentially to regurgitate the same film all over again, only with [*cough*] “better” special effects.

And then you get something like the 2005 version of The Amityville Horror, which rather remarkably manages to be entirely unoriginal in an entirely original way. For anyone well versed in the genre, this headache-inducing hodgepodge plays like “The Horror Film 1980-2005: Greatest Hits”. Its most egregious theft is from The Shining; but there’s also a healthy dose of The Sixth Sense, a dash of The Ring, a dollop of Poltergeist, and just a soupçon of The Step-Father, to name only the most obvious sources; while the spook effects are exactly the same ones we’ve seen trotted out in just about every supernatural movie of the past few years, like Gothika and Godsend. In fact, just about the only horror entry of recent times to which The Amityville Horror bears little or no resemblance is the film, the book, the story, on which it is supposedly based.

I was rather sourly amused to note during this viewing that the opening, Based on the true story slide is followed by about twenty minutes of non-stop tampering with details (and with considerably more than details, like the circumstances of the youngest DeFeo child’s death, which I will return to in a moment). I guess you can understand why they changed the children’s names. Changing Kathy from a divorcée to a widow is rather more contentious. Presumably it was done to ratchet up the tension between George and his new family, but the fact that all three kids have clear-to-the-point-of-being-recent memories of their father gives the Lutz marriage an uncomfortable Claudius-and-Ophelia vibe. I was annoyed, perhaps to an unreasonable degree, by the changing of the house number from 112 to 412; but the moment that really made me clench my teeth - because I suspect it was a mistake, not a choice - was when George was trying to calm down his excited wife: “Kathy! Kathy! Katherine!” Uh, Kathleen...

On the other hand, if The Amityville Horror has precious little to do with the James Brolin-Margot Kidder version of the tale, it does exhibit a profound philosophical similarity to that film’s 1982 prequel, Amityville II: The Possession….and this, people, with apologies in advance, is where I pause for a few autobiographical remarks.

I am a fairly omnivorous consumer of films, but one area into which I have seldom ventured is the realm of sleaze. Now, that’s not to say anything against sleaze, per se; hey, some of my best friends are experts in it! It just doesn’t happen to be my thing, that’s all. So I am, granted, speaking from a comparatively limited experience when I say that one of the sleaziest films I have ever seen is Amityville II.

Still, I don’t think too many people would seriously argue with my choice of epithet. This ugly, heavily fictionalised account of the events surrounding the DeFeo murders is, as I am fond of saying, the kind of thing that leaves you longing for a disinfectant rub-down. Its only redeeming features are its final third, in which it morphs into an Exorcist rip-off so unabashed and ludicrous that it almost removes some of the bad taste left behind by the unmerciful depiction of abuse that comprises the rest of the film, and the fact that it deigns to change the names of its characters. Whether this last was done out of a fear of lawsuits, or whether (unlikely as it seems) the people involved with the production actually had the grace to feel ashamed of it, I couldn’t tell you. The bottom line, however, is that someone, at some point, actually recognised and reacted to the fact that Amityville II was taking unpardonable liberties with the victims of a real-life tragedy.

Now….I realise that this may not be the impression I tend to give, what with my various rants, and all, but the fact is I am relatively difficult to offend. Oh, sure, I’ll react to a film, or a joke, or a story, with a mental or verbal exclamation of, “Wow….that is really offensive” – but it tends to be an intellectual response, a recognition that there are probably people who would find that material offensive, rather than an admission that I am. I’m more likely to be grossed out, or irritated, or even angered, than actually offended, which to my mind is a term that carries with it a sense of moral judgement. Still – it does happen occasionally.

Which brings us back – finally – to The Amityville Horror.

When I reviewed the original film version of this story, I discussed its fairly discreet handling of the whole “imaginary friend” subplot, and how the book’s Jodie the pig was transformed into Jodie the indeterminate invisible visitor. Well, this version of the story has a Jodie too, but she is anything but indeterminate. She is, in fact, Jodie DeFeo, the youngest sibling of Ronnie DeFeo, who in the film’s brutal opening sequence is found cowering in a closet by her rifle-wielding brother and shot point-blank. She subsequently reappears in spectral form, complete with a bullet hole in her forehead, hanging by her neck over the marital bed of George and Kathy Lutz, deliberately driving the children’s babysitter into a complete mental breakdown, and trying to lure the youngest Lutz child into committing suicide.

Now – let me pause here for just a moment, in order to point out a tiny detail that seems to have escaped the makers of this motion picture.

THAT IS A REAL MURDERED CHILD YOU ARE SCREWING AROUND WITH, YOU SICK BUNCH OF SHITS!!

Like I said, I’m hard to offend, but this--- Honest to God, what were they thinking!? To take the real victim of a real murder and turn her into some pathetic clichéd movie spook - !? The only possible defence I can come up with, if you could even call it a defence, is that no-one connected with this production had sufficient intelligence to actually think through the implications of what they were doing.

And just to add even more insult to even more injury….the film can’t even exploit the poor child consistently, vacillating between depicting her as herself a victim of the house, and as a manifestation of evil. Nor does it ever bother to explain why only she is haunting this house….

(By the way, Ronnie having to hunt down his last victim is a direct steal from Amityville II: it never happened. The youngest DeFeo was killed in bed like all the others – and he was a boy, not a girl. But as any watcher of recent horror films could tell you, spectral little girls have much more clout than spectral little boys.)

Just to show that I can, so to speak, give the devil his due, I must confess that this version of The Amityville Horror doesn’t start out too badly. The reality of the DeFeo murders legitimises the blunt and bloody depiction of them that opens the film – although with the murder of “Jodie”, the line is certainly crossed. Still, our introduction to this film’s take on the Lutz family does initially raise our hopes. All the elements that ought to be important are in place, occasionally with pleasing subtlety. We are made aware of the newness of George and Kathy’s marriage; the disapproval of Kathy’s mother (to which George reacts with good-natured ruefulness); George’s feelings of awkwardness in his unaccustomed role of “father”; the hostility of Billy, the eldest child, who remembers his deceased father all too clearly; and most of all the extent to which George is over-committing himself financially in the purchase of the house, and the accompanying inference that George is trying to buy the affections of his new family, winning his way to acceptance with one gigantically extravagant gesture. All of this is right, and all of it is good; this is where the focus of the story should be, with the pre-existing tensions between the various individuals played upon and exacerbated, the family attacked from within.

Unfortunately, even while this is unspooling before us we are bluntly made aware that it is not going to last. We are instead confronted with a house unambiguously haunted from the first moment the Lutzes see it, with George and Kathy’s real estate agent looking determinedly in the other direction as something scuttles down a nearby corridor, and conspicuously refraining from accompanying them into the basement. The impression that this ridiculous sequence gives is that the agent has done a deal with whatever is in the house, which has obligingly toned down its non-stop manifestations for the moment in return for being served up a new bunch of victims.

(A real estate agent in league with demonic forces? Getouttahere! It also seems rather incredible, given the profile of the case, that George and Kathy don’t know before they’re told that this is The Murder House.)

Actually, I’m prepared to give screenwriter Scott Kosar some benefit of the doubt here, and suggest that he originally submitted a longer and more textured story that was ruthlessly pruned into the sledgehammer effort that made it onto the screen. If the film’s brief (but still wearying) running-time wasn’t indication enough that some savage cutting had been done during production, its abrupt leaps from Day 1 to Day 15 (!) to Day 28 (!!) are a frank admission that this rendering is the shorthand version of the tale, bereft of all opportunities for ambiguity and subtext. One is forced, sadly, to interpret this as contempt for the audience….or perhaps, even more sadly, it’s simply realistic. Perhaps today’s horror audience cannot, or will not, deal with a film that takes its time to build to its scares.

Consider Bart Simpson in the same situation: “Come on, man, do it. Do the blood thing! Do it, do it, do it!” Also – not to harp, or anything – but this “instant manifestation” mindset is yet another steal from the thunderously unsubtle Amityville II, in which the family has barely been in the house five minutes before they are experiencing ghostly touches and blood running from the taps.

In any case, once the Lutzes are in the house there’s hardly a quiet moment. On the very first night, things lurk, windows open, light switches bleed, and Kathy and George’s lovemaking comes to an abrupt and unsatisfactory end when George glimpses Jodie hanging by her neck above the bed. (And why would she be hanging? Oh, gee, it wouldn’t be because Haley Joel Osment used to see people hanging around, would it? Or because of that spectral little girl in Ghost Ship? Or….)

Perhaps this film as a whole is best summed up by the way in which it re-tools the babysitting episode. I praised the original film’s handling of this sequence, which is notable for its beautiful simplicity: it works because nothing overt happens in it. Here, it goes horribly wrong from the moment we first set eyes on the babysitter herself, no longer an ordinary neighbourhood teen, but Queen Skank of Skank City. We don’t believe for a second that Kathy would leave her kids with someone like this – even were this scene not juxtaposed with a Chelsea-in-peril, someone-should-have-been-watching-her! spat between Kathy and George.

On the other hand, we probably get an explanation here for while the age of the eldest Lutz child has been raised to about twelve: not so that Billy can believably challenge George’s authority, which is what it briefly looks like, but so they can get away with a distasteful sequence in which the babysitter hits on him. From this Lisa passes onto the story of the DeFeo murders, which George and Kathy have understandably kept from the children. (Though again, you would expect them to have heard the story at school; not that there’s any indication they’re going to school.) Having horrified the boys by telling them that their counterparts died in this room, in these beds, she takes them up to Chelsea’s room to show them the closet where the last victim was killed. And we get to see the murders one more time – oh, goody.

None of this sits well with the, in this instance, vengeful Jodie, though it seems that her real-life issues with Lisa are spilling over into her spectral existence. She traps Lisa in the closet with herself, and punishes her for her various misdeeds by--- Well, never mind. Ick, that’s all. (And there is an even worse implication that can be put upon this scene, but I’ll leave it to Will Laughlin to bother your dreams with that.)

The scene ends with Lisa, now a shattered mental wreck, being carted off in an ambulance. In other words, a rotten person we know little about and care nothing for has been set up and shot down – a cheap, nasty thrill. Big deal.

A recurrent problem with this version of The Amityville Horror is that it never knows when to stop. Several times it produces scenes that are actually working, then ruin them with a climactic booga-booga. Most annoying in this respect is perhaps the sequence built around Michael’ middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom, which (like the hand-from-under-bed moment in The Sixth Sense) has a primal quality, a universality, to it that makes it almost impossible for the viewer not to respond. But then of course the noises in the vents, the taps that won’t function, the sense of something present all get swept away and replaced by black-goop-drooling demon. Subtle, guys. Real subtle.

The scares in this film are for the most part tiresomely over-familiar. Oh, sure, they work, I suppose; but then, so does sneaking up behind someone and yelling BOO! Just don’t be surprised when the person you do that to turns around and punches you in the face. I know I felt like punching The Amityville Horror – or maybe just Michael Bay – after I’d seen it. If there are two things I am sick, sick, sick of in the modern horror film, they are the relentless use of that flash-shot-shock-cut editing, and the fact that every single fright scene is accompanied by a REALLY!! LOUD!! NOISE!!

The upshot of this is that I come away from The Amityville Horror not shaken up, but annoyed. It is indicative of its everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach that it is almost impossible to remember the sequence of events in this film; does Chelsea go dancing on the roof before or after George nearly drowns in his bath? There’s no discernible logic to anything that happens, still less the kind of slow burn that is the trademark of your better haunted house movies. The result is something momentarily bothersome but with no lingering power. Perhaps its failure is best illustrated by the fact that, the first time I saw it, which was at the cinema, I missed the bus on the way home and had to walk from the station: a fairly long and often very dark walk….yet I was never even spooked. Nor was I when I went up the darkened staircase to my room at the top of the house – or even into the bathroom. Honestly, if a film can’t throw a scare into a constitutional Nervous Nelly and unregenerate caffeine addict like me….give it up, people!

(Okay, I confess: I was mildly spooked while having my shower the next morning, but only mildly, because I was careful not to wipe the condensation from my mirror, and everyone knows that nothing really nasty can happen to you in a bathroom unless you wipe the condensation from your mirror.)

Really, the only moment in The Amityville Horror which gets that soft, satisfied Yesss... out of my inner critic is that in which George wakes from a troubled sleep muttering imprecations against Harry the dog for barking too much; temporarily forgetting that, due to an earlier contretemps involving an axe and a case of mistaken identity, Harry couldn’t be barking... The dog’s death itself is, however, quite another matter. It seems to be there chiefly because – rather late in the proceedings, one suspects – it finally dawned on the film-makers that having committed themselves to telling “THE true story” – they couldn’t kill off any of their characters. Consequently, the film positively seethes with horrible events that turn out to be happening only in flashbacks or dreams….while poor Harry, the one expendable Lutz, bites the big one.

The Amityville Horror may not be scary, but it is frequently disturbing, chiefly in its handling of its children – human and ghostly. I remember, after seeing The Butterfly Effect for the first time, which hit cinemas not so long before this version of The Amityville Horror (and also featured Jesse James), being taken aback by the amount of abuse heaped on its young characters; I suggested then that the film-makers got away with it by implying that the worst of it never really happened. Here, the makers of The Amityville Horror seem to be pulling something similar. Finding justification in, on one hand, the audience’s awareness of the DeFeo murders, and on the other, its equal fore-knowledge that none of the Lutzes died as a result of their experiences, they blithely serve up scene after scene in which children are murdered, terrorised, threatened and/or abused. I’m certainly not one of those who consider that children should be cinematically inviolate, but there are ways and ways of doing everything, and most of this isn’t frightening – it’s just plain unpleasant.

Here, too, this film seems to be copying Amityville II, wherein the supernatural manifestations pale into silliness when set beside scenes of realistic domestic abuse. None of the spook effects in The Amityville Horror come close to touching the scene in which George compels Billy to go on holding the firewood steady, as he swings his axe...

On the other hand, I was cynically amused by the film’s floundering efforts to avoid bringing anything even remotely religious into its story. Kathy’s Catholicism, the Lutzes’ efforts to get help from the church, the implication that whatever is inhabiting the house is demonic in the Judeo-Christian sense – and George’s religious conversion, one more pressure on him amongst so many – are all significant components of the – sorry, I mean THE – true story on which this is supposedly based, but you sure wouldn’t know it here, where this entire aspect is reduced to the small gold cross about Kathy’s neck and a brief conversation between her and a sullen Billy.

Kathy does finally seek help from the local priest, and as Father Callaway, the usually reliable Philip Baker Hall gets to embarrass himself almost as much as Rod Steiger did in the original film – in terms of quality, at least, if not quantity. Hall’s participation is brief, but crammed with unforgettably clunky moments, my personal favourite being when he tells Kathy that Ronnie DeFeo had consulted him about voices in the house, “Weeks before the murders!” – apparently forgetting that in this version of THE true story, the DeFeos had only been living in the house for 28 days when the murders happened! (Okay, I guess technically “28 days” does count as “weeks”. Obviously, The Thing In The Basement didn’t waste any time revealing itself to the DeFeos, either.) The final humiliation comes with the re-working of the infamous Get out! scene, with Callaway getting precisely the same treatment from a swarm of flies that Richard Burton got from a swarm of locusts in The Heretic.

Callaway then proceeds to abrogate responsibility every bit as thoroughly as James Olsen’s Father Adamsky (who at least came back for Round II, albeit too late to be of any use). The last we see of the Catholic church in The Amityville Horror, it’s almost running down Kathy Lutz in its car in its eagerness to flee the house – and if the terrified priest doesn’t yell, “Lady, you’re on your own!” over his shoulder in passing, well, that was probably only an oversight.

So it’s left to Kathy to get to the bottom of the haunting, which she does via the time-honoured practice of camping herself in the library so long, it’s after dark before she returns to the family home; and of course, a dark and stormy night - mwoo-ha-ha! Most of the newspaper articles are passed over fairly swiftly, except perhaps for the detail of the DeFeos occupying the house for only 28 days before the slaughter happened, because oh, golly gosh, the Lutzes have now occupied it for exactly that long. (This whole subplot feels like an obscure Danny Boyle joke.) The film re-focuses again when Kathy stumbles over, not the back-story, but the back-back-story. We learn that the original house (later built onto) was the province of the Reverend Jeremiah Ketchem, who turned the basement into his very own torture-playground, and slaughtered at least twenty Native Americans down there; activities of which George has been having “flashes” and nightmares since first setting foot in the house.

Nothing, really, sums up the whole more-is-less anti-quality of The Amityville Horror than this piece of literal overkill. There was, of course, a point at which an “Ancient Indian Burial Ground” entered the Amityville mythos, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there during any of the early iterations. (Would it be cynical to suggest it appeared post-Poltergeist?) Long-ago wrongs committed against the original inhabitants of an area were once upon a time sufficient to explain terrible things happening to Caucasian families, but alas, no longer, it seems. Desecrating an Native American burial site isn’t enough any more; now it requires filling up the burial site in the first place.

Then, too, despite operating - literally - in the late 17th century, the Reverend Ketchem turns out to be a happening kind of psycho-killer. We get only a brief glimpse of him, but enough to be assured that he, somewhat counterintuitively, granted, favoured a trendy trench-coat-and-slouch-hat outfit, and liked to carry around pointy implements. He also may have been the very first serial killer to come up with his own slogan: Katch em and kill em, which pops up at regular intervals throughout the film.

Now understanding what she’s up against, Kathy returns to the house to get the children out, which neither George nor The House has any intention of permitting. Cue a protracted pursuit scene that doesn’t even seem embarrassed about how much it rips off The Shining (“Heeeeerrrrre’s Van Wilder!”); although some welcome tension invades the rather silly proceedings when Kathy ends up pointing a rifle at George’s head and has to make a very big decision...

But then someone remembered that this is a THE true story, and it all ends with the family just running away. The makers of the original film had the sense to leave it at that; the makers of this one tacked on – surprise! – a kicker ending featuring one more act of child cruelty. Because nothing says “entertainment” like terrible things happening to small children, right?

Speaking of children, the best thing about The Amityville Horror is the three kids, particularly Chloë Grace Moretz who, at the ripe old age of seven, is infinitely better than the film deserves.

Otherwise I’m struggling to find anything nice to say about it---although conversely, the list of deserves criticism is almost endless. There are many, many things wrong with this version of The Amityville Horror but surely its supreme failure is that---the house isn’t scary. How on earth they managed to screw this up I do not know, but there wasn’t a single instant when the sheer look of the place bothered me, as it always does in the original film, with that disconcerting contrast between the eerie exterior and the flatly ordinary interior. Actually, I find it rather funny that with all they junked from the story they were supposedly filming, there was still some recognition that you couldn’t have “The Amityville Horror” without “The House”.

But this house--- The eyes are wrong, for a start. They’re too tall and skinny and not really eye-like at all; while the rest of the place is just too much; it’s a mansion, not a desirable suburban family home. It finally has the same effect as the ridiculous house in The Haunting. There’s never a moment when you aren’t fully aware you’re looking at a movie set.

And even as a set it isn’t used properly; everything is exaggerated to the point of absurdity – so that, for instance, instead of a window that won’t stay shut, we have huge banks of windows flying open at the drop of a hat. As for the hidden room in the basement--- Let’s just say that what they serve up here makes the plywood-covered portal to hell in Amityville 3-D look positively sensible by comparison.

The inverted crosses on the door handles are kind of cute, though.

The failure to make the house credible bleeds into The Amityville Horror’s final, and overriding, failure: as a period piece. No matter how many Alice Cooper posters, or how much KISS memorabilia, the set-dressers tossed around, there is no point in this film when we believe we’re looking at 1975.

(Personally, I was jolted out of any engagement with the film the moment that Billy looked down at his George-prepared breakfast and announced, “This sucks!” I dunno: maybe that term was just incredibly slow in making it to these shores, but by my memory it didn’t enter the vernacular until many, many years later.)

The various participants are too glossy, too manufactured; in the case of Melissa George, who never convinces for a moment as an early-seventies housewife and mother-of-three, too young. The abbreviated screenplay does her no favours, either: Kathy is so late in reacting to what’s going on around her that she comes across as rather a dim bulb; although she comes into her own towards the end, when she has to defend the kids against George, and George against himself. Ryan Reynolds, conversely, begins quite well, but soon he, too, becomes the victim of a script that goes so over the top so fast, it’s hard to know when or how he could have toned it down. Reynolds is a bit more visually convincing as a man of the seventies because he has the option of adopting face-fungus; but really, both Lutzes come across rather like children playing house, not adults with significant responsibilities.

But whatever faint hope there may have been of creating an illusion of time and place is shattered the first time 2005’s George Lutz takes his shirt off and exposes Ryan Reynolds’ ridiculous plastic inflatable abs, which are without question the film’s Nut O’ Fun©. Anything less 1970s cannot be imagined. As long as those things are onscreen, it’s impossible to look anywhere else; in comparison, not even mutilated corpses and black-mouthed demons have a hope of holding our attention. After all, there’s always the chance that Reynolds will twist too far in one direction or the other and one of those impossible bulges will blow out. Someone could lose an eye.

Which brings us at last to the one inarguable success of this version of The Amityville Horror; not one, I imagine, it was striving for: it succeeded in making me nostalgic for James Brolin’s love-handles.

Want a second opinion of The Amityville Horror? Visit Braineater.

 
  
Spot the gen-yoo-ine 70s man...
----revised and reformatted 13/01/2014