The Amityville Horror: The Only Thing Scarier Than Ghosts Is Overpriced Mortgages

Hello, all! I haven’t watched a new horror movie in a while, so yesterday I decided to watch The Amityville HorrorThe movie was mediocre,  but I came away with two thoughts: 1) The reason America is falling apart is because Ryan Reynolds has starred in too many bad movies and 2) People wouldn’t have to deal with ghosts if they bought houses that they could afford.

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Plot Summary: On a dark, stormy night in 1974, Ronald DeFeo murdered his whole family with a rifle. Bang, bang, lots of lightning. Before you can think about this for more than four seconds, BAM flash forward a year to the beautiful Lutz family. Kathy (Melissa George) lost her husband to some mysterious cancer/ accident a few years back, so she and her children Billy (Jesse James), Michael (Jimmy Bennett), and Chelsea (Chloe-Grace Moretz) are still grieving, and new husband George (Ryan Reynolds) can only intrude awkwardly into their tearful family moments.

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Like he always does

Kathy convinces George to throw all of his savings into a suspiciously priced mansion. She is unfazed by the recent murder. If only she had read Realty for Dummies: Don’t Buy Murder Houses. The first few days in the Murder House are peachy, as George learns that there’s a boathouse (yay!) and Chelsea makes friends with a ghost. But the idyll can only last so long. George starts spending nights in the basement, just as Ronnie DeFeo once did, and hears a voice telling him to “Ketch ’em and Kill ’em.” Obviously, an illiterate ghost.

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Kathy is worried about weird George, but she’d rather take him out for Italian than solve the problem (or protect her kids). While they’re out, Very Slutty Babysitter ™ tells the children about the DeFeo murders. She even badmouths little murdered Jodie DeFeo for getting her fired. Little murdered Jodie DeFeo doesn’t like that, so Chelsea helps lock Very Slutty Babsitter™ in the closet and little murdered Jodie DeFeo makes Very Slutty Babysitter™ stick her finger in a bullet hole.

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You’re the worst, kid. 

The Italian dinner doesn’t cure George’s psychosis. He becomes an angry old drunk guy and makes Billy carry wood all night instead of eating dinner. Kathy does NOTHING about this because she’s a horrible mother. George moves down to the basement and becomes convinced that the dog is out to get him, so he kills him with an ax. Kathy invites a priest over to inspect the house, but the priest is chased away by a swarm of flies (I kid you not). After researching the house’s history (instead of protecting her children from an ax-murderer), Kathy learns that the house used to belong to Father Ketcham, a man who tortured and killed Native Americans. Ahhh, so that’s why George is so mean. I thought he was just a douchebag.

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Kathy attempts to take the kids and flee, but George stops them. That night he goes crazy and chases them around with an ax. They escape to the roof and Billy pushes George to his death…just kidding, he’s fine, and he tries to kill them again, but Kathy knocks him unconscious with the butt of a rifle. Instead of leaving him to rot, she drags him onto their boat (thank god for that boathouse) and they speed away to the middle of the lake, whereupon George’s craziness lift and they leave the house forever, presumably to move to another part of Long Island.

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But Long Island IS the problem!

My take: The movie was thoroughly mediocre. From the unoriginal evil preacher backstory to the jump-scare baby girl ghost, not a single scene gave more than the bare minimum of effort. I think the problem comes down to the story, because they had some capable actors. Ryan Reynolds’ inherent douchebaggery aside, he can play mean, and mean can be scary. If the movie had focused more on Reynolds’ unraveling relationship with Kathy and the children, it would have amped up the psychological terror. One scene, where George makes Billy hold a block of wood while he splits it in two, narrowly missing Billy’s fingers, show what the movie might have been like if the story focused more on George than the paranormal aspects of the house.

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Meh.

For all of its hype, there’s little to frighten in the Amityville house. The ghosts of the murdered family are absent except for little murdered Jodie, who does nothing except scare babysitters and lure Chelsea onto the roof. I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to feel sorry for her because she was murdered, or if we’re supposed to be scared of her, but I felt neither of those emotions. Ghostly children can be scary if done correctly, but slapping on a layer of green slime and cloudy contacts doesn’t work.

Masked children wander through the corridors of "The Orphanage."
Scary.
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Not scary.

Everything about this film is so uninspiring. Even  Jodie’s makeup is trite. There is no suspense, no mystery, not a bit of intrigue. Every scare relies on the simple effect of jolting the viewer from a dull stupor with a clash of dissonant sound and a screaming face. Not to mention that silly face-shifting effect, which is employed at least twice in the film, though it never scares once.

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Even George is barely scared.

One interesting idea, intentional or not, is the economic problems that come with purchasing the Amityville house. George is initially reluctant to buy the expensive house, noting that it’s way out of their price range, but Kathy is so intent on securing the “American Dream” that comes with the house that she bulldozes over his wishes, and even a previous murder, usually a bad sign, won’t dissuade her. Then when Kathy tries to leave the house after the paranormal activity, she’s so far in debt that she can’t really leave without sacrificing her financial security. Unlike the Freeling family in Poltergeist, who can afford to leave their exploded house, the Lutz family is essentially tied to the property, evil ghost or no. Twice before his possession by Father Ketcham, George jokes about their debt, but afterwards, he calls Kathy “fucking stupid” for wanting to leave the house because she values her family over the money.

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The reason I mention this is because I noticed a similar theme in American Horror Story: Murder House. That family also buys an overpriced, ghost-infested mansion, but when events get out of hand, they can’t leave until they sell the house, which of course never happens. The Amityville Horror was made in 2005, three years before the housing crisis, and AHS: Murder House was made in 2011, three years after the housing crisis.  It’s a weird idea to see in two unrelated ghost stories, but something I thought I would mention anyways.

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Final Consensus: The Amityville Horror is so mediocre that even writing this sentence is boring me. Director Andrew Douglas probably picked Ryan Reynolds off the streets of Vancouver and gave him $10 to act like a bitterly sarcastic pre-Deadpool drunk uncle. The fact that it took four people, including the original George and Kathy Lutz, to write this tired remake will never cease to amaze me. The ghost of Jodie DeFeo could’ve written this and still had time to scare Very Slutty Babysitters™.  Rating: 0.5 out of 10 Douchey Deadpools.

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P.S

You would think that I would only have time to watch one stupid horror movie in a day, but actually I had time to watch two. I almost wrote about Visions, a movie in which Isla Fisher is haunted by a ghost, but the main dilemma is whether her new vintage wine will make it onto Napa’s hottest debut wine list! I had to decide what was scarier: an overpriced ghost mansion, or a haunted vineyard. The overpriced ghost mansion won.  But if you guys want to watch something spectacularly silly, try Visions on Netflix.

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I’m sorry your vineyard is haunted but some people have real problems. 

 

 

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