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|The Amityville Horror|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Andrew Douglas|
scr Scott Kosar
with Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Moretz, Philip Baker Hall, Isabel Conner, Brendan Donaldson, Annabel Armour, Rich Komenich, David Gee, Danny McCarthy
release US/UK 15.Apr.05
05/US MGM-Dimension 1h29
Stop being so wet: Reynolds and George
With the current wave of horror movies, it's unsurprising that filmmakers are raiding the previous glut in the 1970s. We've had new takes on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Alien, Freddy and Jason, with The Fog on its way. So why not rework the 1979 hit based on a true story? There's nothing wrong with this skilful remake, but it's worrying that so few filmmakers can be bothered to think up a new story.
It's 1975 and George and Kathy Lutz (Reynolds and George) have bought a Long Island house that's too good to be true. They move in with their kids (James, Bennett and Moretz), and before you can say Poltergeist, daughter Chelsea befriends the ghost of a little girl (Conner), who was a victim of a horrific slaughter. Then before you can say The Shining, George starts acting paranoid and crazed, prowling around with an axe. Even a local priest (Ball) is afraid of this house.
While respecting the story, director Douglas can't resist making us jump with loud noises, sudden ghostly apparitions, gruesome flashbacks and lurid mythology. The grainy, textured 1970s visual style nicely gels with effectively subdued special effects to crank up the scary atmosphere while keeping the characters realistic. The increasingly muscular (and proud of it) Reynolds and the feisty George are both very good, although she'd have had to be about 16 when her eldest son was born. OK, it happens. But the age issue does slightly undermine our ability to just accept these people as a normal family.
Essentially this is a standard haunted house movie in which happy people have their lives destroyed by an evil presence. That it's based on true events makes it much more fascinating, even though the filmmakers have bent the story to fit the structure of a horror film (from the cheerful-but-foreboding opening act to the over-the-top action finale in a sudden electrical storm). In the end, the psychological horror is more involving and much scarier than all the ghost stuff. And it's also what makes this a rare remake worth seeing.
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