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The Amityville Horror

The Horror! The Horror!

I learned at an early age that if something sounds too good to be true, chances are, it probably is. Some folks learn this lesson by buying into some hackneyed pyramid scheme or selling Amway products. Woe to the poor souls who purchase an absurdly cheap dream home that was the site of a grisly mass murder. Unless said home has a great view and a boathouse, of course.

In The Amityville Horror, Kathy (Melissa George) and George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds) play a smitten couple searching for a new home in which to start their new life together. Naturally, they find their dream home at a price that they assume must be a misprint. Replete with a boathouse, lots of land, and a gorgeous view, this abode, regrettably, carries some serious baggage. It's unfortunate that no psychotherapists cater to houses.

The gradual discovery of said baggage forms the thrust of this latest The Amityville Horror (the original was released in 1979). Right off the bat, things go awry. George exhibits flu-like symptoms and starts hearing voices uttering soothing things like, "Catch Em', Kill Em'!" Unable to find a stereo blaring Megadeth, George's grip on sanity becomes tenuous and this formerly happy family becomes dysfunctional in a hurry.

The Amityville Horror has some genuinely horrific moments and manages to keep the audience relatively uncomfortable for the full ninety minute running time. Fleeting shadows, terrifying visions in mirrors, and undead corpses floating in the nearby lake provide a handful of the chills. But, there's little that can truly be jolting as everyone knows a house where a mass murder occurred is bound to carry more than a little bad karma.

The performances in this film are solid, if not unremarkable. As the 'horror' makes itself more manifest, Kathy becomes haggard, fatigued, and high strung. Melissa George does a solid job of conveying this escalating stress and anxiety. The most interesting performance is Ryan Reynolds' portrayal of George. George is genuinely an amiable guy prior to moving into his new home and all too quickly descends into madness (a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining). Reynolds genuinely seems unhinged in the latter stages of the film. Reynolds adroitly manages to play both the amiable husband/father and the unhinged lunatic.

The Amityville Horror is an engaging, if not predictable horror film. It would have been nice to get some idea of exactly why George was so affected by the house as seemingly no one else in the family felt compelled to move into the basement and stare at the wall all day. But, it's a shortcoming that does not take away from the terror that this film elicits. Inevitably, the door is left open for a sequel and I wouldn't be surprised if this dream home finds new tenants.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars