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1 item from 2005


The Amityville Horror

7 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The Amityville Horror is a true remake, sticking closely to the characters and story of the 1979 horror film about the ultimate real-estate nightmare. The major difference is that it's a half-hour shorter, which means the movie gets to the meat much more quickly. But this also means that the father becomes unhinged too quickly, thus eliminating any subtlety in his deterioration or the possibility that at least some of the events are psychological in origin. Despite a lack of major names, the modestly budgeted film should enjoy a decent theatrical payoff and perhaps even greater success in ancillary markets.

Both movies' setups are identical right down to the decision by the remakers to keep the story true to its period. Scott Kosar's screenplay is based on the original Sandor Stern script and a book by Jay Anson. The book purports to tell the true-life story of the Lutz family that moved into a large Dutch Colonial home in Amityville, Long Island, in 1975, a year after a young man went berserk there and killed his entire family with a rifle. The Lutzes stayed in the house a brief 28 days.

George Lutz insisted that he began to hear the same evil voices that drove the killer to murder eight people. Wife Kathy soon rightly feared for George's sanity -- and her family's safety. Other writers and investigators have called the Lutz story a hoax. Nevertheless, Anson's book spawned the first movie, a clutch of sequels and a telefilm.

Debuting commercial director Andrew Douglas casts much younger leads for the remake, both of whom were 28 when the film was shot. (James Brolin and Margot Kidder played the original Lutzes.) George Lutz (a bearded Ryan Reynolds) is newly married to Kathy (Melissa George), who has three youngsters by her late first husband. That Kathy would have a 12-year-old son is a bit of a stretch, but this does create a new source of tension as young Billy (Jesse James) bitterly resents the new man in his mom's life.

Everyone in the family is still getting to know one another as they move into the haunted house. Only the adults are aware of the house's grotesque legacy. Their anxiety to escape the confines of a crowded apartment causes George to shrug that "there are no bad houses -- only bad people."

Things go bump in the night right away, especially at 3:15 a.m., the time the murder rampage began a year earlier. Douglas and Kosar borrow from The Sixth Sense in having bloodied "dead people" turn up frequently, glimpsed in mirrors, empty rooms and nightmares. In fact, the house grows so crowded with ghosts it becomes a veritable Haunted Hilton.

The youngest child, Chelsea (Chloe Grace Moretz), claims to see the youngest murder victim, Jodie (Isabel Conner), though no one realizes that Jodie is trying to lure Chelsea to her death. This leads to the film's most hair-raising episode, where the family discovers the young girl walking precariously on the edge of the house's roof peak.

The priest Philip Baker Hall), who is unable or unwilling to exorcise the house's demons, is thankfully marginalized here, but in its place as an over-the-top character is the baby-sitter (Rachel Nichols), a sex kitten right out of the pages of Barely Legal complete with a 2005 exposed midriff.

George's mental and physical deterioration remains the same: He gets sick, is constantly cold and obsessively chops wood (with an evil-looking ax) to feed the wood-burning furnace. This film is willing to make the husband a much more unsympathetic character. Fortunately, Australian actress George, as beautiful as she is talented, steps into the breach as family protector and turns the wife into the film's real protagonist.

Jennifer Williams' design apes the original's right down to the house's diabolic "eye" windows. Steve Jablonsky's music is prone to cliches, especially the thunderclaps that accompany the revelation of each of the "dead people."

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR

MGM

MGM and Dimension Films present a Platinum Dunes production in association with Radar Pictures

Credits: Director: Andrew Douglas

Screenwriter: Scott Kosar

Based on the book by: Jay Anson

Based on a screenplay by: Sandor Stern

Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller

Executive producers: Ted Field, David Crockett

Director of photography: Peter Lyons Collister

Production designer: Jennifer Williams

Music: Steve Jablonsky

Costumes: David Robinson

Editors: Chris Wagner, Roger Barton

Cast:

George Lutz: Ryan Reynolds

Kathy Lutz: Melissa George

Billy: Jesse James

Michael: Jimmy Bennett

Chelsea: Chloe Grace Moretz

Jodie: Isabel Conner

Lisa: Rachel Nichols

Father McNamara: Philip Baker Hall

MPAA rating R

Running time -- 89 minutes »

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1 item from 2005


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