Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Andrew Douglas
Producer: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, and Brad Fuller
Screenwriter: Scott Kosar
Based on: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson/The Amityville Horror (1979)
Release Date: April 15, 2005
Melissa George as Kathy Lutz
Ryan Reynolds as George Lutz
Isabel Conner as Jodie DeFeo
Rating = 2.5/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
One late night in 1974, six members of the DeFeo family were murdered in their house in Amityville, Long Island, by the eldest DeFeo son, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. Just a month after DeFeo’s conviction in 1975, the house was resold to a couple with three children and a dog. Complaining of escalating paranormal events and violence, the Lutzes had moved back out of the seemingly cursed house in 28 days.
There are some moments of gore and violence both acted out on screen and seen in photographs or quick flashbacks. Some of it looks fake, thanks to outdated CGI and other effects. Some of it looks uncomfortably real, especially in what I assume are doctored crime-scene photos. There is a particularly nasty scene which involves the death of the family dog.
The Grave Review
The Amityville Horror (2005) had a lot to live up to, as the book it is based on is supposedly a true account of a haunting in Long Island, and thanks to that and the original film adaptation has become a horror legend. Although The Amityville Horror (2005) certainly isn’t the best horror film ever made, it definitely is a more effective piece of horror than either the original film adaptation or the original written account of the Lutzes’ experience in the haunted house.
This remake’s biggest strength is that it seems to make an effort to fix plot holes that existed in both the original film and book and create a more cohesive narrative. Although strange things happen to every member of the Lutz family, patriarch George begins acting oddly, in a way that imitates the behavior of Ronald DeFeo shortly before he murdered his family. George’s behavior changes slowly, and he wavers between intense moments of insanity with moments of rationality. His character arc feels more natural this way and it builds the tension much more effectively. There’s more to his strange behavior than growing out his beard and becoming obsessed with chopping wood, the vague signs of evil in previous takes on this story. It also subverts expectations with a shocking scene of violence directed towards the family dog. A local babysitter listing the signs of insanity before George starts showing them strongly does feel a tad on the nose, however.
These changes do make George feel like a rounder character this time around. A ghost of a DeFeo daughter is also added and gives the story more depth. Not only is George infected with centuries of evil spirits weighing on him, the ghost of young Jodie appears to be angry that her life was cut short. This adds to the story and creates more effective horror, as the haunts that are threatening are no longer anonymous and faceless. They have good reason to exist and they are targeting certain family members for a reason. In general, seeing the haunts and hallucinations throughout the house make it feel as if the space has been used well and a haunting is being used to its full potential.
It does have weaknesses, though. The effects were undoubtedly cutting edge at the time, but some of the CGI effects have aged badly. Certainly not the worst aging I’ve ever seen—but the CGI has the shiny, smooth quality common in the mid-2000s that seems to catch your attention just to remind you that it’s all fake.
Ryan Reynolds as George Lutz also creates some unusual problems. For the most part, he does a convincing job as the patriarch slipping into insanity. However, he’s got a few really weak moments of acting that feels like they stop the movie completely, if only for a minute or two. He was also hot off The Notebook (2004), so there are quite a few shirtless (and a little more) scenes. It’s distracting in the sense that you’re very aware that an executive was thinking of getting a bigger audience in theater chairs. I found it hard to get absorbed into the movie because I would get a scene of this kind and I’d immediately think, “This one is for the soccer moms.” I suppose there’s an argument to be made that it makes Reynolds’ character appear more vulnerable and/or that it subverts horror tropes for gender, but… I think that may be too generous.
The movie also seems to work with the assumption that the viewer knows the basic story of the house in Amityville. A quick intro gives us information about the DeFeo murders, and even the Lutzes are given a quick summation of the bloody events that took place prior to them buying the house. When Kathy Lutz researches her house’s history further, she instead looks into the home’s history that explains why there are evil spirits in the house in the first place, long before the Lutzes were ever in the picture. This was all an interesting take on the basic Amityville story, but it’s hard to decide if it serves the story better or affects it negatively.
All in all, The Amityville Horror (2005) is a decent but somewhat forgettable horror movie. It improves on previous takes on the possibly true haunting of a house in Long Island—including the actual written account of the haunting the real Lutzes lived through—but it doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the “haunted house” sub genre. It’s a worthwhile watch if you’ve never seen it before, but it probably won’t be one you’ll be looking to buy afterwards.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives The Amityville Horror (2005), two and one-half graves out of five graves.
Do you agree with our review? Comment below.
You may also like our review on the 2002 film, Cabin Fever.