THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
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That Ronald DeFeo Jr. was convicted of murdering his parents and siblings on the night of November 13, 1974 is true. To this day Ronald denies it, and even fields questions from the Internet community at large through his official website at thenightexposed.net/.*
But what Jay Anson (THE AMITYVILLE HORROR - 1977) and Hans Holzer (MURDER IN AMITYVILLE - 1979) tried to pass off as truth in the 1970s, remains pure hokum.
That said, the new remake of 1979s THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, is a better movie than the original.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR 2005 starts off with the original murder, taking the view that Ronald DeFeo, despite his protestations to the contrary, did in fact, murder his family.
The film then takes us to the movie's "present" where the haunting begins. Based on both Jay Anson's novel as well as the original screenplay by Sandor Stern, Director Andrew Douglas introduces us to the Family Lutz.
Ryan Reynolds (BLADE III) plays affable building contractor, George Lutz. George has fallen in love with, and married Kathy (Melissa George: DARK CITY, MULHOLLAND DR.), a widowed woman who is still guiding her three children through the death of their father only a few short years earlier. Kathy is ready to nest again and talks George into buying the old DeFeo house. In movie world, buying houses were people died is always a bad idea, but in the real world people are always moving into houses and apartments where someone died. That's why the old house is usually empty in the first place. George and Kathy aren't particularly pleased that the house they are moving into has a history of slaughter, but the price is reasonable and Kathy really loves it. George, starting a new prefab family, does his best to accommodate and not feel like a stranger in his own life.
Kathy's children make this a mixed blessing as you can imagine. The youngest, Chelsea Lutz (Chloe Moretz), is neither here nor there about George as she creates a delusional child's word filled with imaginary friends. Brother Michael (Jimmy Bennett), the middle one, takes to George better, being young enough to make the transition without worrying what his deceased Father would think. The oldest child, Billy (Jesse James: THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT), is the most problematic. Much older than his siblings, he remembers his Father best. His loyalty to his deceased Pop causes strain and distrust in his relationship with George. As big as the family is, the house on 112 Ocean avenue outsizes them all: towering over their comings and goings with its oppressive girth.
As the family moves in, we are treated to the unseen ugliness of a haunted house; a damaged dead child; demonic half humans that dwell in corners, and other nightmarish apparitions, all waiting to pounce on this fragile family. The quick moments are excellent jaw droppers with not a jumping cat or hand on the shoulder to be seen anywhere. In fact, Director Douglas use of special effects is sparse at first. All of the scenes could have easily been shot in the 1970s with the original, had folks back then carried through on the horrific promise exhibited during that decade by talents like Steven Spielberg (JAWS) and William Friedkin (THE EXORCIST).
Ryan Reynolds is the one left to carry the weight here, as the physically strongest of the family, George Lutz, is chosen by the evil spirit of the house (under the guise of the story). George will be tormented into committing homicide like (the real-life and still very much alive) Ronald DeFeo Jr. before him. Ryan does an incredible job of flitting between a man fighting for possession of his will (which takes the form of a flu-like illness) as he fights both against hallucinations and his belief in them. The gradual possession of George takes on the appearance of influenza, complete with flash bouts of both the chills and high fever. Coincidentally, I was suffering through a month long bout of the flu when I watched this movie, so I couldn't be more "on the same page" when I saw Reynold's performance. And that performance is stunning. No less because most of what George goes through is of such a personal, internal nature. There are many scenes that call for Reynolds to portray George without words or even interaction. He knows he is getting sick, and he hears voices which only confuse him and his ever slipping hold on reality: That he does so, and Director Douglas allowed the scenes to move and frighten, left the audience gasping.
But it isn't all George.
When it's Kathy Lutz, the movie goes from delusional Horror to reality. Kathy doesn't feel the influence of the house, but she does stand witness to the effect it takes on her family. As in real life, Kathy is a very devout Catholic woman who isn't sure if the effect on her new husband isn't his own illness; if the effect on her children isn't really due to the death of their biological father; the newness of their new adoptive father; and his growing menace. Kathy feels certain that all will be well if only the local Catholic Priest will come and bless their house. Melissa moves Kathy through an ever growing series of confusions as George blames the House, but can't bring himself to leave it, and her children are alienating themselves from her, each other, and even a creepy babysitter who gets what's coming.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR 2005 touches on subjects and family dynamics that the original never bothered with, and is lush with horrific moments that aren't overwrought with CGI special effects.
Though not a "Horror Classic" by any stretch^, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR not only stands as the best of all of the THE AMITYVILLE HORROR movies ever made, but as one of the best Horror movies Hollywood has ever released. (^way, WAY, too many plastic posed glamour shots of the bare chested Ryan Reynolds, whose body betrays a man who spends most of his time needle-ing over his diet and his work out regimen in the gym, rather than a regular working family guy who runs a small construction company)
Four Shriek Girls
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