My concept for TBT has yet again proven itself to be worthwhile with today’s entry. This Thursday I watched a film I could have sworn was actually good years ago. I know, I know. This month was supposed to be inclusive of nothing but GOOD horror films — not bad, not even mediocre. Good ones. But I say again, going back in time and rewatching films I haven’t laid eyes on in years has proven to be beneficial. Some films take a second viewing to make their impact (even if those viewings were parceled out over the course of almost a decade). I suppose if I wanted to truly keep to this theme of purportedly “good” horror films, I would have just crafted a review based on my first watch, but seeing that I couldn’t remember anything at all that happened, I decided to give it a quick re-watch and see what came of it. Apparently, not a great deal of excitement.
Today’s food for thought: The Amityville Horror (2005).
Release: April 15, 2005
Ryan Reynolds. . . .in a horror film? How is this possibly going to gel at all? When I was eight years younger, I calmly brushed such concerns aside, slipped the disc into the player and sat patiently, watching as the film opened in considerably grim fashion. A bloody opening scene explains the events that would set-up the story for Reynold’s character and his family later in the film. A man inexplicably slaughters his entire family one random night, and is later described by police as having severely disturbed psychological behavior, the source of his behavior being generally understood to be related to demonic possession. It’s not exactly subtle exposition and foreshadowing, but compared to the terrible way in which it ends, this part of the film should be allowed to slide by.
George and Kathy (Melissa George) are a young married couple facing the typical financial stresses. However, they become infatuated with an old, rustic estate on the water’s edge and, spurred on by a desire to move onward in the “next step in our life’s plan,” they buy the house impulsively and cannot wait to settle in, to start making improvements on the grounds. Soon, though, the house causes disturbances in this family — most notably in George and their youngest child, Chelsea (Chloe Grace Moretz), and soon they’ll be left with only one option: abandon their dream house. Hopefully everyone will still be alive by then.
Given the curious against-type casting of Mr. Van Wilder here, I was nearly convinced this film could offer up something refreshing, performance-wise at least. (I hold out very little hope for experiencing stylistic revelations in horror film remakes). His typical pretty-boy appearance now disguised in the requisite grayscales and dim lighting of horror film sets, Reynolds’ George Lutz actually seemed capable of being a serious character, one that loves, hurts and is able to handle the responsibilities of his life — in essence, virtually the opposite of every character we’ve been accustomed to seeing Reynolds portray. As shocking as it might sound now, back then I thought this would work out.
I should probably back up just a bit though, before I tear Reynolds apart from my frustration of having sat through another plodding, quote-unquote scary film.
The ultimate failure with most films of this genre boils down to either a lack of acting ability (which on the odd occasion can make a film inadvertently more entertaining) or a lack of good writing. It’s those two factors more than anything else that throw off any given horror film’s desired effect; we can all look away from bloodshed if we so choose to. The remake of The Amityville Horror contains a mix of both, but its nearly impossible to argue that the writing is the most uninspired element. Reynolds is saddled with dialogue that is both unconvincing and at times plain stupid.
Of course, his character is taken on a journey that will leave you both confused and moreover, bored. The first complaint previously stated is owed more to the poor writing; his execution of a rather mundane story, though. . .well that’s more on Reynolds. As he slowly becomes more and more affected by the demonic forces within his house, he slowly starts to reveal the cracks in his dramatic repertoire. Aside from looking far too stoned for the duration of the flick, he can’t convey much in his eyes. Reactions and facial expressions are critical to selling the experiences of the victims on screen. All Reynolds can do is simply alter the volume of his voice.
Ultimately, my experience years back with this film is made all the more dim by the passing of time. The fog that has gotten in the way between today and whenever the heck it was when I last sat through The Amityville Borer has grown thick enough to make me think this movie could have survived on Reynold’s presence alone. Fortunately, though, the movie does get some brownie points for the young introduction of Chloe Grace Moretz, who gets more than her fair share of screen time here as the ever-so impressionable Chelsea. Everyone else involved is dreadfully forgettable, however.
Recommendation: Unlikely to be on anyone’s list of favorite remakes, this edition from 2005 is frustratingly mediocre. The acting is predictably crummy and the scares are sparse. This all said, there’s a decent bit of tension here and there that might make for a decent horror film night on the run-up to Halloween itself, but there’s really not much more value here than that. You might be better off renting the original.
Running Time: 89 mins.
Quoted: “Catch ’em and kill ’em. . .”
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