Film — The Amityville Horror (R)
The Amityville Horror (R)

by Amy Diaz

Very very good real estate goes very bad in The Amityville Horror, the remake to the late 1970s horror movie of the same name.

Let me stress, though, that the house in The Amityville Horror is so nice that you’re tempted to overlook the fact that it will turn one member of your family into a homicidal lunatic. I mean, a massive house with giant window-filled rooms on lakefront property? Couldn’t a few anti-psychotics make up for the home’s evil tendencies? Because I guarantee you it would be hard to find such a building’s equal for what the characters claim is a ridiculously low price anywhere in the northeast. The real estate market is tough; you have to make sacrifices.

Of course, in the case of the house in question — nestled into picturesque Long Island — the sacrifices are mostly of the human variety. George (Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy (Melissa George) Lutz pick the mini-mansion-of-the-damned because Kathy has three children from a previous marriage and the newly-married Lutz need large living quarters. They move in after a real estate agent shows off the beautiful Dutch colonial features, waves around a can’t-pass-it-up price and goes light on the fact that the previous owners died horribly when their 23-year-old son shot them all in their beds.

Hey, all property has its challenges.

The Lutzs decide that a little murder isn’t enough to keep them away and move into this suburban plot of milk and honey. After a few days, however, the milk starts to sour. Prompted to feed the basement furnace by a chill only he could feel, George soon finds himself transfixed by a large hole in the basement floor/wall. He awakens each night by strange noises, a sudden opening of all the (truly fantastic) downstairs storm windows and a sudden barking by the family dog. During the day, he hears whispers from the heating vents — perhaps telling him how much he’s likely to owe in property taxes, which would explain why the voices turn him in to such a grump. Formerly a candidate for World’s Funnest Stepdad, George suddenly has a harsh, sarcastic edge to his voice, a bitter outlook on life and a sadistic sense of humor. In short, he’s A LOT more entertaining once he starts to go evil.

But hey, who isn’t? Evil Kirk had the kickin’ goat-tee, Evil Angel had sexy leather pants, Evil Anakin gets to rule the galaxy for a few years. Evil is a much better character trait than, say, patience and understanding, which are nice qualities in people and real snoozers in movie characters.

And while good characteristics seem saccharine and overly pious when done poorly, evil portrayed hamfistedly and without nuance just gets funnier. As Reynolds’ George slowly goes over the edge into crazy Jack-Nicholson-in-The-Shining bad-father land, he becomes a puffy-faced, red-eyed cruel wit. Evil or theater critic? Who could tell?

The Amityville Horror is not particularly scary or awe-inspiring — though that Melissa George’s Kathy is supposed to have given birth to three children and still has a perfect body is rather supernatural — but it is the kind of horror movie that gets funnier as it goes along. And, if you can’t get scarier, at least funny — even if unintentional — is still entertaining.

- Amy Diaz

 
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