The Amityville Horror

At this point in time, it's no surprise that a remake of the 1979 The Amityville Horror arrives on screens. It's also no surprise that's it's not very good. Like every other American horror movie these days, The Amityville Horror has few real scares, and relies on "jump" moments to quickly frighten the audience. Everything is a bit on the bland side, and the people are a bit stupider than typical. By now, the story, based on the novel by Jay Anson, is familiar to everybody. In late 1974, a man shot his entire family, claiming that 'voices' made him do it. A year later, the Lutz family moved into the same house, and moved out quickly less than a month later.

George (Ryan Reynolds, Blade: Trinity, Harold & Kumar Go to While Castle), his wife Kathy (Melissa George, Down with Love, Mulholland Dr.), and her children Billy (Jesse James, The Butterfly Effect, Pearl Harbor), Michael (Jimmy Bennett, Hostage, The Polar Express), and Chelsea (Chloe Grace Moretz) move into the house with the highest of hopes. Kathy's husband died a short time ago, so the family is still on shaky ground. Billy is not too keen on George, who tries to emphasize he is not replacing the children's father. Otherwise, they are a pretty happy family. Things change as soon as they enter the house. George cannot sleep, is always cold, and begins hearing voices. His behavior becomes more erratic, and tensions within the family rise.

The George character is the most problematic. Reynolds looks fantastic, but is not cut out for a role like this. He was much more amusing wisecracking in Van Wilder, and while he retains a bit of charisma at the beginning, it quickly fades away. He gets angrier, his eyes are redder, and spends more time with his axe. He does notice that every time he leaves the house, his headaches disappear, but neither he nor Kathy do anything about this. They are there for almost a month, and things get progressively worse, and still they don't do anything about it. Come on people! Worse, in order to make things seem tenser, screenwriter Scott Kosar (The Machinist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), who adapted Sander Stern's earlier screenplay) builds things slowly, then crams in a lifetime of plot in the final day.

Director Andrew Douglas (Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus) starts nicely, with some jarring footage from the earlier murders. This ends as soon as the opening credits finish, and Douglas then treats his audience to a pastiche of horror movie cliches - quick cuts, moving shadows, freaky little girls, and dripping blood. It would be more interesting if this was done two or three decades ago, but by now, every horror film does the same thing. The Amityville Horror works in that it never quite descends into unintentional comedy, but it gets close.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 29 minutes, Rated R for violence, disturbing images, language, brief sexuality, and drug use.

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