Horror review: The Amityville Horror

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, APRIL 21, 2005

Several times recently, while watching the tube at home, I’ve had to scramble for the remote and quickly flip the channel whenever the trailer for The Amityville Horror came on. I didn’t want the kids going to bed with scary images in their imaginative little minds; neither did I want to have my potential in-theatre enjoyment of the film threatened by advance glimpses of its most shocking moments.

As it turns out, I needn’t have been concerned about any commercials ruining the suspense for me, because-apart from one nerve-racking scene where a little girl teeters on the edge of a rooftop-there’s very little of it on display here. It’s just your routine family-in-a-haunted-house flick, where creepy apparitions cause the patriarch to descend into axe-wielding madness and threaten his kin. You liked it when it was called The Shining.

For those who missed the original Amityville Horror of ’79, it was based on Jay Anson’s bestselling book, which told the apparently true tale of the Lutz clan’s experiences inside the large house they bought in New York’s Amityville, on Long Island. The Dutch Colonial structure had been the recent site of a mass murder, committed by a teenager who slaughtered his entire family, claiming afterwards that “voices” drove him to it.

Shortly after the Lutzes moved there in ’74, bizarre and unexplainable events began to occur, causing them to abandon the place after 28 days. The huge success of both the book and movie hinged on readers’ and viewers’ faith in the Lutzes’ “true-life account” of those happenings. But even those who emphatically believe in evil spirits must wonder why it took the family about a month to take the hint.

Vancouver’s Ryan Reynolds stars as George Lutz, who figures he’s got “the deal of the century” when he’s able to acquire the sprawling-albeit rundown-home for a song. The realtor’s reluctant confession about the building’s grisly history doesn’t dissuade him or wife Kathy (Melissa George of TV’s Alias), and they promptly move in with their three kids. You know it’s the mid-’70s because the oldest child is always wearing Kiss t-shirts, and his bedroom is plastered with Kiss posters.

Strangely enough, we never get to hear one lick of Kiss music. Surely one run-through of “Beth” would have rid the place of any demons worth worrying about.

After a few glimpses of a freaky ghost kid and a near-drowning in the tub-not to mention having his fridge magnets messed with-Lutz’s temper gets shorter and shorter, and his eyes get redder and redder. He spends most of his time chopping wood, allowing for ample footage of Reynolds’s impressive six-pack. The slumming Philip Baker Hall (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) turns up as a priest to pull off a Max Von Sydow, but after sloshing holy water around the place, his character gets set upon by a plague of black flies. Those buggers must pack quite a sting, because the burly man screams and hollers and runs away like a little girl.

They sure don’t make exorcists like they used to.

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