The Amityville Horror

(Andrew Douglas, USA, 2005)


There is one intriguing element in this otherwise unremarkable remake of the wildly successful 1979 horror film of the same title. Near the start, George (Ryan Reynolds) is interrupted by one of his new step-kids crying "What are you doing to my mother?" as he begins to fool around with Kathy (Australia’s own Melissa George, looking a little too young to be the mother of teens).

This leads to several seething resentments on George’s part. He makes brittle jokes about "selling one of the kids" in order to pay for the large house he feels compelled to buy for the sake of family unity – unaware, of course, that it is a haunted house which has already incited a previous family to gruesomely self-destruct.

The Amityville Horror passes itself off, laughably, as a true story of supernatural possession. (The confusion of comedy and horror especially transmits itself to the audience via Reynolds’ mock-seeming strangled cries of hysteria.) But what the film is really about is the bloody unfolding – by narrative anamorphosis – of George’s deep hatred for his kids, his home and even the very institution of marriage. Sadly, screenwriter Scott Kosar (who also wrote the poor Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake of 2003) cheapens this theme by having George yell banalities like: "We’re living the American Dream!"

Flashy director Andrew Douglas (the latest ring-in from the worlds of music video and advertising) has even less of a grip on this material, complete with confusing, last-minute references to historic atrocities against Native Americans, and an unintentionally hilarious, sub-Exorcist cameo from a local priest (Philip Baker Hall).

MORE Amityville: Amityville 1992: It’s About Time

© Adrian Martin April 2005

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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