GORE IN THE STORE
REVIEWS BY FANS FOR FANS
5 STAR FAB - 1 STAR RUBBISH
The Amityville Haunting - *
Release date : June 18th 2012.
Bombastic Michael Bay-produced 2005 remake aside, the AMITYVILLE franchise is one of those long-term horror movie series stuck in straight-to-video purgatory since its third theatrical entry (back in 1983) roped in 3-D gimmickry to try and lure in the punters. If you’ve not been keeping track, the best of the series was the genuinely creepy and unashamedly sleazy prequel AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION, the one where sweaty Burt Young beats his kids, spineless Rutanya Alda shrieks and the finale turns into THE EXORCIST on crack. Later non-theatrical releases mostly made the mistake of ditching the spooky Amityville house completely in favour of ho-hum narratives about possessed / haunted lamps, mirrors, clocks and (cough) dollhouses. The original 1979 box office hit is now remembered mostly for Margot Kidder’s erotic aerobics and James Brolin’s malevolent beard.
As we’re in 2011, the latest attempt to flog a worryingly stiff equine begins with a caption promising “What you are about to see is real” before around 80 minutes of uneventful, amateurish haunted house shenanigans captured by CCTV or handheld digital cameras. Yep, AMITYVILLE has gone found-footage and, worse still, the new entry is made by The Asylum, making this an uninventive retread of their own PARANORMAL ENTITY with the Amityville brand-name attached to attract vulnerable renters.
After the opening titles have reminded us of the real-life 1974 DeFeo shootings that set the Amityville circus in motion (and the Lutz family saga that inspired the 1979 movie), the new film begins with a bunch of slasher movie style horny teens breaking into the ominous Long Island home to screw and revel in past horrors. Naturally, they perish horribly and, obviously, everything is captured for posterity via someone’s phone camera. If BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN were made today (hint to Hollywood: don’t even think about) at least two thirds of the movie would be wobbly-cam footage taken by The Monster on his Frankenphone.
Subsequently, this movie year’s most unappealing family in peril move into the haunted abode, not especially fazed by its gruesome history or by the fact that the (evidently scared) real estate lady dies mysteriously right outside the house after contracts have been exchanged. AMITYVILLE II’s thoroughly screwed-up, dysfunctional family was a memorable subversion of the squeaky-clean all-American flesh-bags that normally occupy this sub-genre, but this film’s protagonists are the kind of characters you yearn to see disembowelled by the end of the first reel. An unsympathetic central couple are joined by a sullen teenage daughter, a grating junior brat who quickly befriends a ghost and an obnoxious adolescent who “thinks he’s the next Spielberg”.
Any potential for creepiness generated by briefly glimpsed figures, creaking doors and ominous shadows tends to be immediately destroyed by the recurring on-camera commentary provided by the odious adolescent whose fondness for filming family arguments and his sister in a towel ultimately leads to the capturing of paranormal activity on film. Talking of which, the various fixed shots of empty rooms (courtesy of Dad’s installation of security cameras a la PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2) accompanied by a rumbling underscore to represent an encroaching evil presence, offer a blatant theft of the PARANORMAL franchise’s signature sequence typical of The Asylum’s plagiaristic output. One such scene (a seemingly endless dialogue sequence involving a cop) does, for novelty’s sake, feature the lamest ghostly manifestation yet seen in a found footage movie. And that includes PARANORMAL ENTITY.
Horrible performances, ridiculous plot turns and embarrassing dialogue – “Family meeting at 1800 hours!” – make AMITYVILLE HAUNTING a chore to watch, though Jason Williams’ god-awful performance as the increasingly crazed Dad does reach comical heights during a laughable finale in which one character’s lament of “What the fuck?!” will be echoed by any surviving viewers. As for chilling authenticity – the “making of” featurette attempts to maintain the illusion that what we’re experiencing is real footage – it’s tough to be convinced by a found footage film that features “Coroners Reports” in which the word “extreme” is misspelt.