The Amityville Horror (2005) (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Andrew Douglas
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 89 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Review Date: September 17, 2010
Movie remakes are generally an unwise decision, and one always wonders especially why bad films are remade? Are the filmmakers trying to get right what someone else got wrong so many years ago? Or is there such a creativity void in Hollywood that the past is being scavenged for whatever can be dredged up in order to put something, anything, on the screen? Of course, in the case of MGM in its usual dire straits, it’s no wonder they chose to remake a top moneymaker from the past. The name recognition is great, and with today’s CGI, horror films can gain something over their older counterparts if the new effects are applied correctly. The 1979 The Amityville Horror was a lousy movie that did very well at the box-office. The 2005 remake is a better film, but that’s mainly because the writer and director didn’t really attempt a regurgitation of the original but rather they’ve taken some of the facts of that true case and remade the story as a bargain basement version of The Shining.
A year after Ronald DeFeo (Brendan Donaldson) annihilates his entire family in a bloody massacre claiming voices inside the house convinced him to do it, the Lutz family takes possession of the house at 112 Ocean Avenue. George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds) and wife Kathy (Melissa George) seem very much in love, but he has a very uneasy relationship with his three stepchildren: the eldest Billy (Jesse James), more agreeable younger son Michael (Jimmy Bennett), and the youngest Chelsea (Chloe Grace Moretz). Chelsea especially takes up immediately with one of the most accommodating ghosts haunting the house, Jodie Defeo (Isabel Conner), who was the last of the family shot in the head by her big brother. Jodie’s irresistible influence on Chelsea leads her into some precarious situations, but it’s nothing compared to the tormented George whose entire personality begins taking on murderous overtones as ghosts from long ago begin filling his every waking and sleeping moment.
If director Andrew Douglas and screenwriter Scott Kosar wanted to remake The Shining, they should have gone for it, for as the picture runs and more and more scenes reek of déjà vu (even down to a maze of tunnels and what appear to be torture chambers amid all the ghostly children and adults who make cameo appearances throughout the film), what had been effectively scary turns ridiculous. Ryan Reynolds even begins stalking the family with an ax and has to be dragged into a place of safety by his wife, more shameful borrowing from the Stephen King/Stanley Kubrick classic. There are effective moments: Chelsea’s rooftop walk is indeed frightening, and there are enough quick shocks as ghoulish faces pop in and out of the frame to make a viewer completely unsettled. But as with other remakes of fondly remembered horror pictures from years past (House of Wax, The House on Haunted Hill, The Fog), the film builds into such an overdone hysterical mess that all genuine fear is lost amid the noisy carnage. It actually becomes giggle-inducing, something no producer or director of horror films would want for his movie.
Ryan Reynolds has a nice change of pace role here as a father struggling to connect meaningfully with his stepkids only to be thwarted by an unseen presence (though you’d think after two different times mentioning how much better he feels when away from the house than when he’s shivering inside and haunted by whispers and sleeplessness, he’d understand what was going on). Melissa George, usually only an average actress, makes her battle to save her kids believable until she, too, is railroaded by the overbaked scenario and the flood of CGI she has to contend with. All three of the children play their parts appropriately, and Philip Baker Hall in the greatly reduced role of the priest (overplayed by Rod Steiger in the original) has a couple of effective scenes.
The film is framed at 2.35:1 and is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Contrast has been dialed in quite effectively here making for a dimensional picture that’s a pleasure to watch. Color is nicely saturated, and flesh tones are very accurate. Sharpness for the most part couldn’t be better. But there is problematic aliasing every time the camera moves past the stairs in the foyer, and it seems to be more pronounced as the film continues to run. Black levels are good but not great. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix makes the most of the creepy soundtrack. There are plenty of shocking screeches with strings and bass in the music to signal fear moments, and the LFE channel produces a nice continual rumbling that builds effectively at the right moments. There are occasional ambient sounds directed to the outer reaches of the soundstage, but more could have been done with that.
The Blu-ray contains but a single bonus feature: a theatrical trailer which runs 2 ½ minutes in 1080p.
The enclosed DVD of the movie contains bonus features which were not ported over to the Blu-ray. They consist of
- An audio commentary with Ryan Reynolds and producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form
- Eight deleted scenes with optional commentary by the same three gentlemen lasting 7 ¾ minutes
- “Supernatural Homicides,” a 17 ½-minute discussion of the actual DeFeo murders
- “The Sources of Evil,” a featurette on the making of the movie which runs for 26 ½ minutes
- On Set Peek Mode: a series of nine seamlessly branched vignettes which play as making-of features after a scene plays in the movie
- Photo galleries featuring both photographs and illustrations of the film arranged in three different categories
2.5/5 (not an average)
An improvement on its 1979 forefather, 2005’s The Amityville Horror offers up a few genuinely effective thrills and chills and a video and audio encode that shows the movie to its best advantage. What a shame that the featurettes produced for the DVD release weren’t ported over to the Blu-ray to enhance its appeal.