Friday, November 9, 2007

reVIEW (30)

At best, I have vague recollections of the Jay Anson novel (creepy) and the 1979 film adaptation (not so creepy) starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder, so the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror is going to be judged pretty much on its own merits, as it should be, without comparisons to either of its previous incarnations.
Produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes (who also produced the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hitcher), and helmed by first-time feature director Andrew Douglas (whose previous film was the documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus), this version sees Ryan Reynolds (Blade: Trinity, Van Wilder: Party Liaison) and Melissa George (Mulholland Drive, TV’s Alias, and the upcoming 30 Days of Night) as George and Kathy Lutz, the beleaguered couple allegedly driven out of their home by demonic entities a mere four weeks after moving into their new Long Island residence.

Like the Platinum Dunes remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror is clearly of that slick (and slickly-edited) breed of Hollywood horror movie that isn’t necessarily horrifying. The script (by Scott Kosar, who also retooled the Massacre script) doesn’t really help either, giving us no real sense of character deterioration on George’s part. One minute he’s fine and they’ve just moved in, then he sees the ghost of a little girl, and the next day, he’s doing a Jack Nicholson in The Shining, all dark and moody and borderline psychopathic.
To be perfectly fair, Reynolds does a creditable job of channeling his dark side, effectively erasing his hokey comedic TV sitcom self, but the problem is, he’s like a light switch: outside the house, he’s fine; in the house, he’s definitely not. We get no sense of any sort of encroachment on George’s personality, say, as he drives up to the house. All we have is Good George, and Bad George. The script shows no finesse when it comes to this aspect of the story.
The sense of the house as an entity onto itself, the true brooding monster of the piece, influencing and tainting those within, is also decidedly absent. There is no sense of the house as the source of the evil, of the house as a separate, sinister character. It’s just there, for the quick and the dead to run around in.

And though the young cast members, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, and Chloe Grace Moretz, as Billy, Michael, and Chelsea Lutz, respectively, are capable young actors, none submit any breakthrough performances, and character actor Philip Baker Hall (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Gus Van Sant’s colour remake of Psycho, and TV’s Millennium) is seen too little of, as Father Callaway, who does a bad job of blessing the haunted house and is chased off by a horde of flies for his troubles.
As a result, the film becomes a series of scares (some passably effective, some not) that not only doesn’t cohere properly, it also doesn’t seem to build up towards the film’s climax. We jump from Day 1 to Day 15 to Day 28 (or at least, that’s what it feels like).

Strangely, the scenes that seem to work the best are those that don’t involve scares per se, but those that have Bad George terrorizing his stepchildren, actions that tread the thin line between discipline and abuse. These scenes are scary in an entirely different way than flitting ghosts or bleeding walls.

Sadly though, when all is said and done, The Amityville Horror doesn’t really add up to a whole lot, and is yet another black mark on the score card of Platinum Dunes’ horror film remakes.
Even worse, Bay and company have more remakes in the pike: Near Dark (which originally had Heroes’ flying Petrelli, Adrian Pasdar, and an Aliens contingent consisting of Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein) and The Birds.
You’d think that Bay would steer clear of Hitchcock, but the man apparently has titanium balls and an ego the size of Texas…

(The Amityville Horror OS courtesy of; DVD cover art courtesy of

(The above is a slightly altered version of a review originally entitled “Another 28 Days Later.”)

No comments: