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Okay, can somebody tell me when bathtubs became the scariest thing
ever? (From left to right: Amityville Horror's bathtub, Boogeyman's
bathtub, Constantine's bathtub)

The Amityville Horror
(Hollywood remake or sequel, or film based on a comic book, book, play or video game # 19, since January 1st, 2005. Click for full list of Hollywood's lack of original ideas.)
Review written by: Alex Sandell

If they ever actually told the true story ...

Maybe we'd have something scary to keep us up at night.  During the early morning hours of November 14th, 1974, Ronald DeFeo took a .35-caliber Marlin rifle from his closet and shot his father twice in the back.  He then turned toward his now roused mother and fired two shots into her fragile body. The bullets pulverized her rib cage and closed up her right lung.  Ronald stood and looked on as his parents lay dead in a pool of their own blood.  He next went into the bedroom his two younger brothers shared and fired a shot into each of the boys.  After killing his mother, father and two male siblings, Ronald made his way to the room where his two sisters resided. His youngest sister, still in grade school, woke when he entered her room -- her sanctuary.  He shoved the rifle deep into her face and pulled the trigger.  *BANG*  Seconds later, his oldest sister had half her face blown away by the rifle, and was the last of his six victims.  Pretty terrifying stuff, eh?  There's a lot more to the story, including drug use, child abuse, gun collecting and dealing, conspiracy, betrayal and plenty more creepy shit that doesn't have anything to do with ghosts popping out of closets or priests being attacked by a swarm of pissed off flies.  But that story is never told.  Instead we get the "true story" of the opportunistic (or massively delusional) Lutz family.  Although expert after expert has called their story a hoax, we keep hearing numerous variations of it.  It makes for an interesting enough tale to tell around the campfire; but, in reality, six people -- none related to, or knowing these Lutz dorks -- were gruesomely killed in one night, with no one waking from room to room and no neighbors hearing gunshots.  Events that freaky and horrific happen, and the best Hollywood can do is turn them into a ghost story about an angry spirit possessing those entering his home?  Oh well, at least this poppin' fresh remake gives us a tantalizing taste of the macabre true story. 

If you were to ever pay full price to see five minutes of a movie ...

You would pay it for this film.  The movie opens with an unflinching look at the events described in the section above.  It's brutal, disquieting and disturbing as hell.  Of course I loved every minute of it.  Not in some sick, "add me to Dubya's 'terrorist' watch list" sort of way, but in a, "good gawd, I can't fucking believe someone had a full enough scrotum to put this shit on screen" fashion.  After the yellow tinted, lightning filled blood-bath of an opening, we see grainy news' footage, ala Michael Bay's last horror remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Ya gotta give props to Bay for bucking the PG-13 horror trend that's been turning terror flicks into teeny-bopper night at the talkies.  Ever since Columbine forced politicians to scare Hollywood studios into thinking they were doing something wrong by marketing adult films to adults, rather than editing them down in an effort to sell them to children, mature humans haven't had many films worth two squirts of spunk to sink their teeth into.  Stupid Columbine.  Stupid politicians.  Stupid talkies.  Stupid power surge deleting this critique, causing me to rewrite the entire thing.  Stupid me for not saving every few minutes.  Stupid you for reading this half-assed remake of what I had already written.  Then again, if you're reading this, I suppose you like half-assed remakes, right?     

So, once the first five minutes ends, should we leave?

Not unless you really have something better to do (like feed the hungry and/or clothe the poor. When's the last time you did either of those things, Mr. Philanthropic?).  The film's no classic, but if you're patient and wait through the boring stuff that I think was meant to be character development, there's enough eerie evilness to make it worth sticking it out for 90 minutes.  One scene in the film made me go "eww."  I never go, "eww."  But there's a scene with a babysitter and a ghost and a finger and a hole in the head that had me squirming in my seat.  Plus, they talk about KISS and the older kid has an Alice Cooper poster on his wall.  Later in the film, he wears a shirt featuring the cover of the very first KISS album, when everyone in the band's makeup was still retarded.  Anyway, the babysitter speculates over the realness or fakeness of Gene Simmons' tongue (she comes to the conclusion that it's real). I remember having those conversations about whether Mr. Simmons' tongue was real or fake.  This girl I had a crush on in 6th grade told me Gene cut some muscle to make it hang out like it did.  Of course, if that had been true, he would have lost the ability to properly enunciate words, much less sing, and we'd all be that much better off for it, but I digress.  Did I mention that the babysitter had a nice, flat stomach that made me go, "ah?"  So at least one section of the movie had me ewing and awing.  I may have even been fawning, but I don't fawn.  Is "ewing" a word -- or just a character on Dallas?

Okay, now you're pissing me off -- if you're not just some idiot getting nostalgic over shitty bands from the 70s, is it still worth sticking around? And what does a chick you had a crush on in sixth grade have to do with anything?

The Amityville Horror remake is far superior to the original film (then again, so is the Racing Stripes).  Director Andrew Douglas knows where to put the camera and when to hold back and when to release (sort of like a porn star), jolting the audience in a less generic fashion than recent films like The Ring Two.  Actually, I'm surprised his career as a director consisted of directing television commercials, up until now.  He's quite restrained throughout the film and isn't all "MTV-y" (although there are quite a few fast edits and camera tricks).  Screenwriter Scott Kosar, who also wrote the Texas Chainsaw remake, tosses a couple of nice twists and turns into his script, creating some memorable scares in the process.  There were scenes that gave me chills -- and there's rarely a horror film that gives me chills, after the hundreds my brain has consumed.  It's not like I won't be able to turn out the lights and go to bed all by my lonesome self (if you're a female and you'd like to sleep with a film critic, email me at Dating a critic means lots of free movies.  What self-respecting cinephile doesn't find free film tempting?  We can talk movies when we snuggle.), but they etched their way into my mind in a gruesome sort of way that will inevitably corrupt me for life.  And the ending -- which I won't give away, other than to say it has something to do with Indians and something more to do with a hell of a lot of blood -- was a huge departure from the book or the original movie, and it was pleasing -- in a morbid sense.  Sort of like snippets taken from the first two Hellraiser films, mixed with sentiments stolen from the original Poltergeist.  The chick from 6th grade?  First of all, she's a lady.  Second of all, she has nothing to do with the movie, but I thought her story made for an amusing anecdote.

But then there's that Reynolds fellow ...

What I never really bought was Ryan Reynolds as George Lutz.  Reynolds was fine as Van Wilder, but Reynolds will always be Van Wilder.  The dude drove me nuts in Blade: Trinity and didn't do much better here.  He overplays the part of George Lutz as much as James Brolin underplayed him.  At least I didn't think Reynolds was going to go into a fit of Narcolepsy at any given moment throughout the film.  Still, he's better when spewing lame "comedic" lines such as, "houses don't kill people -- people kill people."  When he has to go psychotic, well, let's just say he's no Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  On the other hand, the acting in the film was pretty decent, overall -- even if the mother (Melissa George) seemed far too young to be a widow with three offspring, living outside of the trailer park.  And, just because I want to namedrop, I'd like to point out that Reynolds seemed like a really nice guy in the email communications we had, when discussing the third Blade film (wanna sleep with me yet?  It's sort of like "six degrees of Ryan Reynolds," and I bring you one degree closer).  And Ryan, get rid of those muscle implants (for the record, Reynolds vehemently denies the implant rumor.  For the record, so did Britney Spears.).  Every time I see you, I'm reminded of one of those vile "Six Pack Abs" infomercials that violate my private time every night at around 3:15 AM.   

Speaking of 3:15 AM   

That's when you know shit's gonna get fucked up at the Lutz house.  According to the film, the murders happened at 3:15 AM.  I liked the way the movie let the audience know that they were about to see some messed up stuff, whenever the clock hit 3:15  (this was in the first film also, but was far less effective).  It added to the tension and gave you something to look forward to.  There's a lot of "drag time" (as in tedious moments, not funky cross-dressing Queen of the Desert stuff) in The Amityville Horror.   But when that clock hits 3:15 AM, it's nearly always worth the wait.  The biggest problem with the film is that it never successfully builds up much tension.  Every 3:15 AM moment feels like the movie's climax.  It's basically slow moment piled on slow moment with a hard-hitting horror moment occurring when the clock hits the correct hour and minute.  It leaves you feeling like there should have been so much more to be felt.  So much more darkness seemed to be left on the sidelines.  The script comes off as half-written rather than fully-formed.  But it's 3:15 AM somewhere, and the movie always works, right at that time.  You're about to give up and it sucks you back in.  It's definitely a matinee movie, but I can't help but think -- after generic jolting jump fests like The Grudge and Boogeyman -- that wanting more is better than wishing they'd give you a whole hell of a lot less. 

Agree? Disagree? Have questions?  Comments?  Email this critic at

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COMING SOON - Reviews of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Planet, Waxworks, The Interpreter, Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and, just because it's been requested more than ANY other movie yet to be reviewed on this site, Hellboy (so who says I don't listen to my readers?)!

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