[Paleopsych] NYT: 'The Amityville Horror': Spacious Colonial With Waterfront View, but All That Blood . . .
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Fri Apr 15 13:51:50 UTC 2005
Movies > Movie Review | 'The Amityville Horror':
Spacious Colonial With Waterfront View, but All That Blood . . .
April 15, 2005
[Washington Post review appended.]
By MANOHLA DARGIS
In a world gone drearily mad with sequels and recycled television
shows, it is merely rhetorical to ask why anyone, including the savvy
part-time producer Michael Bay, would revisit a stinker like the
1979 flick "The Amityville Horror."
The answer, of course, is that these days, even the dumbest horror
movie scares up decent big-screen business before being shuttled off
to DVD perpetuity. Just as crucial, horror is relatively cheap to
churn out, especially when the supporting cast features
interchangeable no-name guys and gals, and the real star of the show -
in this case, a spacious waterfront Long Island house - doesn't
require its own trailer, a piece of the gross or any of the usual
Still, given the crushing dullness of the first "Amityville Horror,"
it seems baffling that it had any traction at all. James Brolin,
sporting a head and face full of Charles Manson fuzz, and a wild-eyed
Margot Kidder play a couple who snap up a palatial Long Island
house for a song. Like the audience, the lovebirds already know that
their new digs are shrouded in murder and mystery, but what takes them
an agonizingly long time to realize - despite all the miscellaneous
creaking and escalating weirdness - is that the house is possessed.
The movie was the kind of thing beloved by bored teenagers and
recreational drug users, two occasionally overlapping demographics,
and was followed by a clutch of sequels that mostly went straight to
This latest visit to Long Island's favorite haunted house was
co-produced by Mr. Bay, the director of such Jerry
Bruckheimer-engineered blockbusters as "Armageddon," and directed
by Andrew Douglas, whose only other credit is for the provocatively
titled "Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus." Mr. Douglas takes an
instrumental approach to the material, meaning he does what he can in
as slickly commercial a fashion as possible. The writer this time is
Scott Kosar, who also wrote Mr. Bay's equally serviceable remake of
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and more interestingly, Brad
Anderson's "Machinist." Mr. Kosar builds on the story arc of the first
"Amityville," which shrouded a gruesome real-life multiple murder in a
bunch of supernatural hooey, and predictably pumps up the gory
violence. Don't get too attached to the family dog.
Set in the 1970's, the new "Amityville" stars an effective Ryan
Reynolds as George Lutz, the hirsute paterfamilias with an easy smile
and an unsettling fondness for chopping wood. Melissa George plays his
wife, a widow and mother of three who, having recently married again,
is still trying to find the right fit for her young brood and her new
man. Despite the jittery realty agent and an ugly stain marring a
large swath of ceiling downstairs, and, oh yeah, the nasty revelation
about the house being the site of a murderous family meltdown, the
Dutch Colonial home looks like the American dream to the young couple.
They take the homeowners' plunge, thereupon triggering various
unfortunate events and, in time, a serious case of buyer's remorse.
Low-key creepy rather than outright scary, the new "Amityville" marks
a modest improvement over the original, partly because, from acting to
bloody effects, it is better executed; and partly because the
filmmakers have downgraded the role of the priest, played in all his
vein-popping glory by Rod Steiger in the first film and by a
considerably more subdued Philip Baker Hall here. Oddly, with these
improvements, the filmmakers have removed "Amityville" from the realm
of kitsch, perhaps with unintended results. In 1974, when a Long
Island man turned Amityville into a crime scene by killing his family,
there was something so novel about this kind of tragedy that it could
be spun into a pop-cultural myth. These days, with the tight real
estate market, I realized I didn't care one bit about anyone making it
out alive - I wanted the house.
"The Amityville Horror" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying
parent or adult guardian). The film contains bloody violence,
including gruesome images of torture and the murder of a family pet;
some viewers may be disturbed by the family dynamics.
'The Amityville Horror'
Opens nationwide today.
Directed by Andrew Douglas; written by Scott Kosar, based on a
screenplay by Sandor Stern and the book by Jay Anson; director of
photography, Peter Lyons Collister; edited by Christian Wagner and
Roger Barton; music by Steve Jablonsky; production designer, Jennifer
Williams; produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller;
released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Dimension Films. Running
time: 89 minutes. This film is rated R.
WITH: Ryan Reynolds (George Lutz), Melissa George (Kathy Lutz), Jesse
James (Billy Lutz), Jimmy Bennett (Michael Lutz), Chloë Grace Moretz
(Chelsea Lutz), Rachel Nichols (Lisa) and Philip Baker Hall (Father
This Old House of 'Horror'
By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 15, 2005; Page WE39
"THERE'S NO BAD houses, just bad people," says Ryan Reynolds's
character in the dumb but fun remake of "The Amityville Horror," that
classic of the cheeseball thriller genre about a very, very bad house.
How about bad actors?
As George Lutz, the hopelessly naive but soon to be demonically
possessed man who has just moved his young family into a creaking,
cobwebbed "Munsters"-style home that shows signs of possibly being
haunted -- during the real estate walk-through -- Reynolds comes
across as a low-rent Jack Nicholson in "The Shining," complete with
bloodshot eyes and ax suitable for turning the family dog into steak
tartare and bashing in doors behind which his terrified family cowers.
No, he doesn't shove his leering face through a splintered hole,
shouting "Heeere's Johnny!," but he might as well, for all the
grimacing, eye rolling and hissing he does. (By the way, look for that
deleted scene when the DVD comes out. I'm sure it's sitting on a
cutting room floor somewhere.)
Despite, or perhaps because of, the histrionics, "Amityville" is a
gory lark, a cheap-thrill-packed love poem to the history of the
contemporary horror film that borrows as liberally from the 1979
"fact-based" original about a house harboring the spirits of a family
that was murdered there as it does from "The Exorcist," "Poltergeist,"
"Stir of Echoes," "The Sixth Sense," "Hide and Seek," "The Grudge,"
the entire "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise and a thousand other
latter-day fright fests. It hits all the marks: windows and doors that
open and close by themselves; a creepy kid (Chloe Grace Moretz) who
"sees" and talks to dead people; a nonfatal fall from the roof (watch
out, he's still alive!); and angry Native American ghosts. The
scariest room in the house? Take your pick: the basement, plagued by
voices and mildew; the closet, portal to another dimension; or the
bathroom, where bogeymen wait for you in the claw-foot tub.
Yes, people were laughing during a recent screening, but it wasn't
immediately clear if it was because the movie was so awful or because
it was actually spooky, and they were trying to relieve the grip of
terror. I'm going with awful and spooky.
"But all the scary parts didn't make any sense," whined one amateur
critic on the way out of the theater, apparently upset at not being
able to distinguish between hallucinatory scenes of a subterranean
human abattoir and, you know, realistic stuff like blood dripping out
of electrical and plumbing fixtures. He's right, of course, but let's
keep focused on that phrase "scary parts."
I mean, really, people. What do you want from a movie where the
babysitter (Rachel Nichols), a pot-smoking tramp in hip-huggers and
blue eye shadow (hey, it's the '70s), offers to French kiss the
12-year-old son (Jesse James)? "Masterpiece Theatre"? Don't worry, she
As for me, I got exactly what I expected: Scared and tickled, within
an inch of my life.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (R, 89 minutes) -- Contains blood and gore,
obscenity, violence, drug use and a sex scene. Area theaters.
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