The Amityville Horror
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
dir. by Andrew Douglas
The original "Amityville" which lighted up the box office way back in 1979, was apparently in need of a remake, or a reimagining as producer Michael Bay would lead you to believe. The original is arguably the worst studio horror film ever, and one of the worst films ever in general for that matter. It has some bland ass performances from the likes of James Brolin, Karen Allen, and Rod Steiger. It's boring as hell and not scary in the least. Stephen King actually wrote a great essay on its initial success in his great piece of non-fiction, "Danse Macabre." He talks about the real estate boom that was culminating in the seventies, and how if you replace the ghosts with leaky faucets, cracks in the foundation, and other annoyances that would cause people's houses to go down in value after they put their life savings into getting the damn thing, one could see why this movie scared the hell out of people.
As I posted in an earlier rant last week, I was initially curious about this remake, because I truly believe the only remakes worth doing are of bad films. In theory, you could turn a bad film into a good one. So, is this movie better than the original? In most areas it really isn't. Let's put it this way: Only in hell, would you ever have to answer a question like that. The movie is still not scary in the least. In fact, this film is full of more fake surprises and bullshit "jump" scenes than I can remember this side of "Halloween: Ressurrection." These attempts at making the audience piss their pants are supposed to be the connecting blocks of all of the other scenes in the movie. This movie can't go three minutes without having a ghost hanging from it's neck, or popping up in a mirror. And, oh yes, the walls and sinks do run with blood, and the popular phrase from the original, "Get Out!," is heard throughout the house. So, essentially this is how a typical scene plays out. The mother is washing the dishes and staring lovingly out the window at her children and then, BAM!, the magnets on the refrigerator spell something out about death all by themselves. A little boy is using the restroom, and then, BAM!, dead woman in the mirror. There's no tension here; there's no drama; basically, there's not much of a movie. It's just scene after scene of gross out horror that is supposed to make us feel something by the time the movie ends.
Andrew Douglas is no better a director than the original's Stuart Rosenberg. This is Douglas's first feature, and to be honest, I hope I don't ever have to suffer through something by him again. I'm usually not that harsh with first time directors, but I see no potential here. At least Rosenberg could make better films (read my previous posting), I don't see Douglas pulling a "Cool Hand Luke" out of his hat. I also want to send a memo out to Scott Kosar, the writer. PLEASE DON'T WRITE ANYTHING EVER AGAIN! Kosar's only other writing credit is Bay's equally terrible remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and I'm not seeing any talent here. Kosar actually uses a babysitter to tell the story of how the original family was murdered in the house; she tells this shit to the kids. Why you ask? Because in a scene previous to this she smokes some pot. Fine, I can buy that the marijuanna got her to terrify the kids, but what I can't figure out is why in the hell she would come back to the house to babysit these kids after knowing what happened there.
The one thing that does prevail in this version are the performances. Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George take over the Brolin and Allen roles. Phillip Baker Hall replaces Rod Steiger's Father Dean character. Although, in this version it's Father Callaway. Why? I don't know; maybe Kosar's brilliant writing is going for something there that is beyond this simple viewer's knowledge. Reynolds is for the most part good at the beginning of the film when he's normal. He doesn't fair as well when he has to descend into madness. He uses the typical avenue that by opening his eyes wider he can project craziness better (see Rebecca Gayheart in "Urban Legend" or Skeet Ulrich in "Scream). Granted, Kosar's writing really doesn't give him much to work with either. George actually takes a terribly written character and gives it quite a bit of depth. After last year's brilliant turn on "Alias," and now this, I'm really looking forward to seeing what she sinks her teeth into next. Rod Steiger overplays the priest in the original to the point that you think he must have been drunk or high while playing the part. The always outstanding Phillip Baker Hall doesn't have much to work with, but still is able to bring professionalism to the role that in most other actor's hands wouldn't have been possible.
However, no matter how solid the acting is in this film, nothing can save "Amityville" from sinking to the depths that Douglas and Kosar seem to be intent on bringing it to. The tidy ass ending that Chris made a reference to in his review is just further frustration when trying to watch this piece of dog shit. As I said earlier in the review, where this movie truly fails is that it isn't a movie. It's scene after scene of gory visuals and a few attempts at dramatic family moments. But there's no story here to keep any of this from being anymore than eye candy. And as far as eye candy goes, it's as low a form as it can be.
Acting - Based on what they had to work with here - A
Everything Else - F
Overall Grade - D
"Amityville", I will see you at my 2005 "Worst of the Year" celebration.