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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Amityville Horror

September 21st, 2010

The Amityville Horror - Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack - Buy from Amazon

The 2005 version of The Amityville Horror is a remake of the 1979 version, which in turn was based on a book, which in turn was based on a lie. The first film was a big hit back in its day, at least at the box office, but critically it was a bust. In many ways, this makes it perfect remake-bait, as it clearly has a story people are interested in, but the original suffered from flawed execution, so there is room for improvement. But does the new version improve upon the original? Or merely give us more of the same?

The Movie

On November 13th, 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shot and killed his family. He first claimed it was the act of a hit man, but when that story fell apart, he claimed he heard voices from the house that told him to murder his family.

A little over a year later, 13 months later, the Lutz family, George and Kathy, who recently married, and Kathy's three kids from her previous marriage (Billy, Michael, and Chelsea) were looking to move into a bigger house. The homes in the Amityville area were way, way outside of their price range. However, 412 Ocean Avenue had the "six people were brutally murdered here discount" so instead of being way, way outside their price range, it is only a little outside their price range. But they decide to make it work.

Almost immediately there are problems, from strange voices, static coming out of radios that are not even plugged in. Chelsea then starts talking to an imaginary friend named Jodie, the name of the youngest murder victim. Given these events, and the history of the house, Kathy makes sure the house is blessed by a priest. The priest, Father McNamara, shows up to perform the blessing / exorcism, which goes about as well as you would expect in a movie like this. And from then on the creepy events just keep getting creepier and creepier till George inevitably snaps.

(This isn't really a spoiler, as you are told this in the trailer.)

Unfortunately, that's the extent of the horror, creepiness. There are a few creepy events, plus a few jump scares, but nothing that's truly horrifying. It's a haunted house movie that does nothing with the setup to distinguish itself from the field. Furniture moves by itself, there are some jump scares, a little girl in creepy horror make-up, etc. The performances are a little wooden, but I can't blame the actors for that, as they are not given much to work with. What looks distant and cold in a good movie simply looks disinterested in a bad movie. I think the biggest problem with the movie is the source material. The film is "based on a true story" and I think that makes the writers lazy. The more plausible something is, the scarier it becomes, because the easier it is to suspend disbelief and be emotionally invested in the movie. So because they can pretend this really happened, they can take a shortcut to scares. "Haunted house! It could happen to you! WooooOOOoooo!"

No. Not scary.

About the only cool thing about the movie is the fact that is stars both Captain Kirk, and Hit Girl in earlier roles.

The Extras

Looking on the extras, we find none on the Blu-ray. There are some on the DVD, but not the Blu-ray. In fact, there are a lot of extras on the DVD: audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making of featurettes, etc. To understand my reaction to that, do a Google image search for "demotivational posters" and "facepalm" and browse the results for about an hour. As for the film's technical presentation, it's a second tier release. It's not bad, but it won't blow you away either. There's enough use of the surround sound speakers and the bass to make the audio stand out more than the video, but that's about it.

The Verdict

The Amityville Horror is not a good movie. Lazy writing that is too dependent on jump scares and false claims of realism kill any sense of horror that the subject matter could otherwise produce. Additionally, the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is poorly made with more extras on the DVD than the Blu-ray. Perhaps if the extras, especially the audio commentary track, were ported over it would have been worth the upgrade, but as it is, it's not.

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