Rated: R Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 15, 2005 Released by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Michael Bay is one of the producers of the new remake of The Amityville Horror who tries to do the same thing that he did with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He has a visually attuned director Andrew Douglas who conjures up a frightening atmosphere from the 1979 film based on a true, grisly story.
Bay must figure that the horror genre can be mined for all its worth with plenty of pictures from the 70's, including George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and the upcoming remake of John Carpenter's The Fog on the way.
The setting of 1975 Long Island has couple George and Kathy Lutz (Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George) purchasing what seems to be a dream house. They move in with their kids, played by Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, and Chloe Moretz as daughter Chelsea. Chelsea will befriend the ghost of a young girl (Isabel Conner), one victim of a slaughter in the Defeo family clan. George turns very paranoid, running around the house with an axe that recalls the Jack Nicholson character from The Shining. Philip Baker Hall (In Good Company) is a local priest who has suspicions of the house.
Douglas obviously is sensitive to the story adapted here by Scott Kosar. It's more skillfully told and shot than Boogeyman, though it can be loud and jumpy. A music video textured with 70's retro to grainy images lightens up on special f/x's but has lurid mythological implications and spectral, gory intrusions and flashbacks.
The actors do their best to make it all real with a brawny Reynolds (Blade Trinity) and a somewhat spunky George (Dark City) leading the way. Kathy, though must have been a teen when she had her oldest son, so the family, like the film, is somewhat underwhelming in a disjointed way.
Evil will reign supreme in a rote haunted house picture that is structured for the genre in ways that tingles because it's based on actual events. The arc of innocent gloominess getting wired up in a stormy climactic action proves that creative minds are in short supply, though fans of the genre will probably like the effect more than The Ring 2 or The Grudge. What this new Amityville has is a psychological horror that builds effectively into the ghostly aura, in the ilk of Poltergeist.
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