Review by Mark Walters

Hollywood is all about horror films right now.  I guess you could say the resurgence truly began with the success of the SCREAM movies in 1996, but lately there have been a number or remakes that are raking in the box-office dough.  It seems as if the studios are doing one of two very specific things, either trying to Americanize the wildly popular Japanese horror films of the last few years, or just take a classic horror film and update it.  Such is the case with the new version of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR.  Producer Michael Bay, who last year brought into theaters a fairly successful redux of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, seems to be the main man behind this latest update.  Now you can say what you want about Bay as a director, but there's no denying he know what audiences want from a producer perspective.  Horror films are hot now, and it's a lot easier to just remake an established story than have to come up with something original.  This film is supposedly based on a true story, which in many ways is the most scary part about it.

Director Andrew Douglas, producer Michael Bay, Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George work out a scene.

 The film opens by showing us events that took place in 1974, where a young man killed his entire family with a shotgun, and told police the "voices" in their house told him to do it.  Cut to one year later.  Kathy (Melissa George) is recently remarried after her last husband died for unexplained reasons.  She has three children from that former relationship.  Her oldest son Billy (Jesse James) is 12, and is having the hardest time dealing with the loss of his father.  Her younger children, Michael and Chelsea, seem more accepting of their current situation.  The new man in Kathy's life is a building contractor named George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds).  They both seem happy together, and their life seems pretty good.  Kathy gets it in her head that they need a bigger house, so she and George go looking around and eventually find the aforementioned Amityville house up for sale.  It's an incredible deal, even if it means George will pretty much go broke making it happen.  Despite finding out that murders happened in the house, the Lutz family decides to move in.  Shortly after strange things start happening.  Chelsea begins talking to a seemingly imaginary little girl by the name of Jodi, and George begins to acting very mean to the entire family.  Every time something bad happens, George immediately blames the boys, and disciplines them harshly afterward.  At one point a babysitter falls victim to some strange occurrences in the house, and it becomes clear that things are not right.  Kathy even goes to the town priest, Father Callaway (Philip Baker Hall), in hopes he can help.  The longer they stay in the house, the worse things get.  Pretty soon George starts to lose control completely, and it looks as if history might repeat itself if something isn't done soon.

Kathy goes to Father Callaway hoping to find some answers to her problems.

 Those who remember the original film most likely remember how creepy it was.  The new film is also creepy, but unfortunately suffers from more than a few moments that simply emulate the more popular horror films of the last few years.  The little girl Jodi, who haunts the house and appears to almost everyone, is more than a bit reminiscent of the little girl in THE RING.  The actor that steals the show is Ryan Reynolds, who manages to shed that funny guy image convincingly, and turns in an impressive and layered performance.  When George Lutz begins to spiral out of control, we follow him the entire way.  It's uncomfortable and it works, thanks to Ryan's impressive acting.  Melissa George is also very good, proving she can play lead roles in a competent manner.  The interesting thing about this story is that it allows the actors to show extreme amounts of emotion, which builds with every scene.  The direction is really good too, especially considering that director Andrew Douglas is making his first big budget film debut with this film.  The scares are very effective, and the setup of each shot is intense as it should be.  I'm curious to see where Douglas goes from here.  Michael Bay obviously saw talent in Andrew, and it looks as if he made a good decision in letting him helm this picture.  Overall the movie is pretty good as horror films go.  There are a few cheap scares, and more than a few moments where they rely on effects shots to shock the audience, but the end result is pretty well done.  Personally I wasn't impressed with the updated CHAINSAW MASSACRE last year, so it was nice to see that this was done a bit better.  The fact that some of this supposedly happened in real life is pretty fascinating to me.  Granted there's a lot of things that were undoubtedly exaggerated for dramatic effect, but overall it's all still pretty creepy to watch.  I've heard that the real George Lutz wasn't all that happy with some of the things that they chose to do here.  I'll say this, if I had the opportunity to visit the real location, I think I'd definitely pass.  What makes this story so scary is that unlike traditional haunted house stories, this house changes the people who live in it, and that's just freaky.  Horror fans should be pleased.  The performances are wonderful, which allows me to forgive the film's shortcomings in other areas.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give THE AMITYVILLE HORROR a 7.

Jodi is waiting for you.

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