The Amityville Horror (2005) Review

In a way The Amityville Horror has to be a remake as had it been any other way then surely we’d find it impossible to swallow the various clichés. Still based on “a true story”, this 2005 version is more faithful than most though it draws equally from Jay Anson’s original novel and Sandor Stern’s 1978 screenplay. Moreover, it also goes one step further than the seventies ethos sharing likes of Cabin Fever or the remakes of Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (with which it shares the writer and producers) and actually sets itself within that decade.

As well as the expected beards, flares and side partings, this also means that little of the original’s plotting has been updated. Occupying the role of the central couple, Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George purchase the infamous property (one which maintains the distinctive design of the 1976 household) unaware of its possessed qualities and the fact that it will lead Reynolds into a Shining-alike mental descent, not to mention the now popular device of having kids the whisper some ghostly stuff.

Of course, you can fill in the rest yourselves and as such The Amityville Horror doesn’t really offer the audience anything beyond a certain lulling boredom. The problem is that the filmmakers really should have seen this coming; after all, the original was never all that good in the first place, yet they’ve taken it completely seriously without doing anything especially new. On the one hand this may separate it from horror remake norms – specifically the fun-filled variation typified by William Malone’s take on House on Haunted Hill - but a certain novelty isn’t a good enough reason to make us sit down and watch.

Furthermore, this also results in a blandness not helped by the non-descript casting. George is barely there as the mother, whilst Reynolds – clearly more suited to the obnoxious macho type he essayed in Blade Trinity - never really convinces as someone who’s thoughts are turning increasingly murderous. For the most part it’s his ever reddening contract lenses which do the work for him. Elsewhere we simply have the usual overbearing Hollywood moppets playing the kids and an instantly forgettable turn from Philip Baker Hall in the Rod Steiger role (of which you could at the very least say was memorable).

And of course, if the acting doesn’t work, then neither do the family tensions. This version makes far more of the fact that Reynolds not being the children’s biological father, but then it’s an element which is never really explored. Rather the general mode of practice is to get as heavy-handed as possible. Whereas the original generated a moderate frisson owing to the manner in which it tapped into first time buyer fears, here the “We got the American Dream” angle is hugely overplayed. Moreover, it’s an attitude which extends elsewhere: for every supposedly subliminal flash of ghostly Indian or whatever, there’s some ridiculously over the top aural accompaniment to make sure that it hasn’t escaped our attention. Indeed, in mixing this MTV-style approach (it comes as no surprise to find that debuting director Andrew Douglas has a history in commercials and pop promos) with the flavour of the original, all this particular Amityville Horror does is mix one form of bland with another. And the result of that equation is, of course, unmistakeable.

The Disc

Unsurprisingly, The Amityville Horror comes to Region 2 DVD in fine condition. The print is, of course, free from damage and highly impressive. Technically sound and anamorphically enhanced it remains of a continually fine quality throughout with the darker scenes being particularly well handled and the level of detail and clarity always perfect. As for the soundtrack, we get a DD5.1 mix which copes ably with the mixture of dialogue and over-emphatic aural design. Indeed, the various channels are utilised heavily throughout, which would no doubt have made for a highly involving experience had the film been any good.

Of the extras, the key addition is the commentary by Reynolds and producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. Nicely laid back and not taking the film too seriously, it is understandably Reynolds who takes control of the proceedings. That said, the producing pair do prove enthusiastic and offer some valuable discussion of their various decisions and the film’s basis on fact. Perhaps there’s nothing essential here, but then it makes for a distracting enough listen.

The trio are also present for an optional commentary on the collection of deleted scenes. As they explain themselves these were almost entirely cut because they were either downright bad, too dull or added nothing to the end result. As such, they interest is minimal, though they’re a welcome enough addition.

Elsewhere a pair of featurettes take us behind the true story and the film’s making respectively, though neither are of any particular worth. The former suffers from the usual overwrought scoring which blights these kinds of things, whilst the latter offers nothing more than bog-standard hyperbole.

Rounding off the disc are a white rabbit function which allows us to access B-roll footage during six key scenes, a trio of photo galleries and, bizarrely, a trailer for Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:32:03

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