4.11.2005

Amityville Horror

“Amityville Horror”: 1979 vs. 2005. The comparison is as gruesome as the murders. Who can compare the juxtaposed perceptions of directors Stuart Rosenberg (1979) and Andrew Douglas (2005)? The Alfred Hitchcock educated filmmakers will lean towards the more intelligent and dated version, praising its spine tingling thrilling, psychological manipulation. Today’s more fast-paced, MTV generation will quickly judge the original, finding visual pleasure in vivid cuts and gruesome animation, and the house brought to life.

For those who have viewed the classic Amityville tale, there are several surprises in store that may possibly disappoint and destroy the possibility of liking the remake. The most unsettling is the absence of the original score. This structural move made by Douglas was a brave mistake – emphasis on mistake. The rationality is as tragic as removing the eerie score to sequential “Nightmare on Elm Street” films after the original.

Douglas has taken Rosenberg’s film and altered the family’s structure to resemble a “Wonder Year’s”, home movie family destroyed by the evil demons that possess the house. The colonial-style home houses the deceased, distraught victims of the DeFeo’s who terrorize the Lutz’s to insanity. Elaborate technology has enabled the members of the DeFeo family to be seen, sending shivers up your arms. This technique allows the characters’ madness to be attributed to actual spirits rather than a mental condition as in the earlier version.

The leads played by Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George are an honest attempt at reflecting the original’s leads played by James Brolin and Margot Kidder (who is actually clinically insane). Reynolds is well noted for his comedic roles in the 1998 television series “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place” as Michael ‘Berg’ Bergen and the movie “Van Wilder” (2002). In “Amityville”, he dually provides fright and laughter with unexpected diverse acting styles and surprising talent. George does a wonderful portrayal of a newly-wed wife struggling to keep her family from falling apart with madness. She has a spectacular background as well, having appeared on “Alias” in 2003 to 2004 and “Mulholland Dr.” (2001), as well as many other successful productions.

The objective motive in redoing a film is to evolve from the original, denouncing its perfection and declaring a new. It’s apparent that Douglas saw something spectacular in Rosenberg’s story that he could bring to light for new generations. So, Douglas expanded the background of the Amityville home’s history, spiced up the editing with spastic and sometimes polluting cuts, and gave the DeFeo’s faces to remember. At times, these faces are reminiscent of characters in other recent horror films like “The Ring Two” and “The Sixth Sense”, but their fright value is not underrated. There’s no question that Douglas has made an acceptable summer horror film, but to compare it to Rosenberg’s would be a cavil.

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