All suspense and some Boo! makes ‘Amityville’ worthwhile

Seth Roy

“Hold me, I think I’ve finally got a grip on my career after crap like Van Wilder, The In-Laws and Blade: Trinity!” Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George face their fears in the remake of The Amityville Horror.

Credit: Seth Roy

In November of 1974, a family was slaughtered in its Amityville, New York, home. A mother, a father, two sons and a daughter were all shot in their beds. Another daughter was found dead in her closet. The perpetrator: Ronald DeFeo Jr., oldest son of the DeFeo family.

Fast forward to December 1975 when the Lutz family, a young couple with three children who think they have found the deal of a lifetime: A large, beautiful house in Amityville for much cheaper than it should be.

“What’s the catch? There’s gotta be a catch,” said George Lutz, played by Ryan Reynolds of Van Wilder fame.

This is the setting for the recent remake of the classic 1979 film, The Amityville Horror.

The catch, if you skipped over that section, is that a family full of helpless, sleeping individuals, was shot by one of their own.

Kathy Lutz, George’s wife played by Melissa George (Sugar and Spice, “Alias”) pressures her husband into buying the house because it would be perfect for her children, who she had with her previous, deceased husband.

Of course, her two sons, Billy, played by Jesse James (Blow, The Butterfly Effect), and Michael, played by Jimmy Bennett (Hostage, The Polar Express), end up sleeping in the same room as the two DeFeo boys. Her daughter, Chelsea, played by newcomer Chloe Moretz, gets the girls’ room.

The film opens with shots of the brutal DeFeo murders, showing Ronald moving from room to room, methodically, with his shotgun. There are newspaper clippings and police interviews that explain the murders. They explain that Ronald heard voices in the house (“Catch ‘em and kill ‘em”) causing him to first murder his dog, and then his family.

And now the Lutzes move into the same house, with roughly the same arrangement, with one less person.

The whole movie has an undercurrent of tension running through it. Along the way, the children learn the story behind the house from a not-so-good babysitter.

This is where the “horror” finally shows up. Chelsea has a friend named Jody, who is apparently the DeFeo girl who was shot in the closet. Jody appears to different members of the household during their time there. To Chelsea, she is a friend; to others, she is a foe.

George hallucinates while he is in the house and begins to get sick.

Then, some creepy things happen. Chelsea climbs to the roof of the house, with the objective to jump off. Jody was going to take her to see her father. The babysitter gets locked in the closet, where Jody appears to her, placing the babysitter’s finger in the bullet hole on her forehead.

The Amityville Horror is tense throughout, and quite suspenseful, with moments of release spread throughout. These releases come in the form of loud crashing noises or flashes of dead people.

If you have seen the original, then you pretty much know the story, which can be a little disappointing.

At the end, I kept HOPING the Mr. Lutz would (Katch ‘em and kill ‘em) … well, I was hoping he would do the opposite of what he actually did.

Another scene of note is his exploration into the Indian torture chamber underneath his house. This is towards the end of the movie where the audience, and the Lutzes, learn more about the history of the house. Different happenings and findings start to tie themselves up during this scene, as it is where the climax really starts to take off.

The remake is a little more visually stunning than the original, and the cast has been picked perfectly. It was quite refreshing seeing Van Wilder take on a serious, almost sickening role.

If you want to see it, either go to a theater, or rent it on a particularly dark and cloudy night. The Amityville Horror provides for good suspense and a few good scares, but no real twist.

And, for those who are like me and like gore in (“Catch ‘em and Kill ‘em”) excess, you will be pleased with the film, but not overly thrilled.

It shows enough to get the point across that the story is gruesome and grisly, without being overly disturbing.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Seth Roy at [email protected].