Monday, November 30, 2015
The Remake Comparison Project - Catch 'Em and Kill 'Em
Cody and Priscilla investigate a famous haunting with The Amityville Horror 1979 and 2005.
When November began, we didn't have a plan for what movies we'd be covering for The Remake Comparison Project. Considering the options, Priscilla decided we should do The Amityville Horror... and it wasn't until after the choice had been made that she realized she had picked the perfect movies for November.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)
In the early hours of November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. stalked from bedroom to bedroom in his family's home in the small village of Amityville on New York's Long Island, murdering his four siblings, whose ages ranged from nine to eighteen, and their parents. This was a crime that understandably shocked the public, and also baffled them - not just with the question of why someone would do that to their family, but also with the question of how it could have possibly happened the way it did. Each family member was found dead in their beds, lying on their stomachs, with no sign of struggle. With all the rifle shots going off in the house, why would everyone still be in bed? It's a question that has never been answered.
DeFeo was convicted of the murders the following year. Thirteen months after the murders, newlyweds George and Kathy Lutz moved into the DeFeo house with Kathy's three young children from a previous marriage. The terrifying paranormal events they claim to have experienced during their short time (less than a month) living in that place became the most popular haunted house story of the last few decades.
The Lutzes' story was revealed to the world in author Jay Anson's book The Amityville Horror, the film rights to which were soon in the hands of producers at American International Pictures. Thirty year veteran director Stuart Rosenberg, best known for directing the classic Cool Hand Luke a decade earlier, was hired to bring The Amityville Horror to the screen. Anson turned his own book into a screenplay, but the producers weren't satisfied with his work, hiring television writer Sandor Stern to handle the adaptation instead.
The film begins in the early hours of November 13, 1974, at a time that is later determined by responding police officers to be around 3am or 3:15. As rain pours down and lightning flashes, a young man stalks from bedroom to bedroom in his family's home in Amityville, Long Island, New York, shooting his parents and four siblings as they lie in their beds. The only light on in the house is in the attic, the light glowing through quarter moon windows that would become an iconic sight in the horror genre.
The curious thing is that when Cody and I decided this would be our collaboration for the month, I wasn't aware, or didn't remember that the murders actually happened in November. A weird "coincidence".
Making it "a dark and stormy night" is a bit cliche, but there is a nice style to this sequence, especially when we're outside, just seeing the rifle's muzzle flares through the windows. I would have preferred if there were no cuts to the interior of the home at all. No corpses or blood, just the gunshots from outside.
One year later, we're introduced to George and Kathy Lutz (James Brolin and Margot Kidder of Sisters and Black Christmas) as the newlyweds are shown around the house by a realtor. While they move through the rooms, there are flashback cutaways to the murders that occurred there.
I could have done without these cutaways, too. Especially the one that follows a jarring freeze frame as the trio go up the stairs.
The freeze frame always makes me wonder if there's something wrong with the DVD. So yeah, not effective.
Loving the house, the Lutzes are disturbed by its history but appreciate the lowered price that history has caused. They make an offer on the place. While the realtor goes over paperwork in the kitchen after the Lutzes have left, she hears a strange rumbling sound coming from within in the house. After that, a breeze blows her papers... and she is so creeped out that she quickly vacates the premises.
Knowing the place's history, I would, too.
Another month later and the Lutzes are moving into the place, having not yet experienced anything strange within its walls. In fact, George's biggest concern seems to be getting Kathy's three young children to call him "Dad" instead of "George" or "Mr. Lutz". However, when another person enters the home, they instantly have bad luck.
That person is Oscar winner (for In the Heat of the Night) Rod Steiger as priest Father Delaney, who seems to have talked to the family before. While the Lutzes are taking a break in the back yard, Delaney knocks on the front door. When no one answers it, he just walks in. From a room where the window won't open, Delaney spots the Lutzes out back. Rather than go talk to them, he sets about performing a blessing on the house.
I always wonder if it's normal for someone to walk into people's homes like that in the US. That doesn't happen here in Brazil, thankfully.
He was asked to do this, but the movie doesn't give us this information until much later, so right now it just looks like this priest goes around breaking into houses to bless them.
Before he can complete the blessing, Delaney becomes very ill and is swarmed by flies. Eventually the door to the room opens on its own and an otherworldy voice demands that he "Get out!" He does.
That night, the still ill Delaney tries to call Kathy to tell her what happened, and before he can the phone burns his hand.
Other people that leave the house don't seem to have any more troubles. But the spirits might really hate Delaney.
Evil spirits that can reach out from the place they inhabit and burn someone's hand across town is going a bit far for my taste.
Concurrent to this, the Lutzes are starting to experience the strangeness. George is freezing in a house where it's 72 degrees. When Kathy suspects a breeze from the basement, George goes downstairs to check it out... and is interrupted when a lightbulb explodes and Kathy's son Ben comes tumbling down the steps, thankfully unharmed.
Before bed, Kathy stands in front of the mirror that covers the master bedroom walls and practices ballet moves while wearing a flower in her hair and one leg warmer, her shirt unbuttoned to reveal her breasts, and the bedroom door wide open.
Such a weird moment. And that wall mirror makes me nostalgic - that same type of mirror was on one wall of my paternal grandmother's living room.
A similar type of mirror covered a wall in the living room in the apartment my family and I lived at, back in the '80s. So cool.
George comes in and they start to go at it right there on the floor, until they get interrupted by Kathy's daughter Amy. Kathy takes Amy back to her room and tucks her in, not noticing that a rocking chair is moving on its own in the corner.
At 3:15am, George wakes up and takes a walk around the property, checking things out. Just when he's about to relax with a cigarette, he's startled by one of horror's biggest cliches. The screeching cat scare.
So begins the Lutzes' fourth day in the house, a day when the strangeness makes progress. Kathy smells a foul odor, Amy is walking around the house with an imaginary friend named Jody, and the plumbing is leaking a black ooze. When Kathy's aunt Helena, a nun, stops by the house, she instantly becomes so ill that she nearly collapses.
The most obvious change is in George's demeanor. He's starting to look pale, sickly. During the day, he intensely chops wood like a man possessed, and at night he burns that wood just as intensely.
Being scared by a cat changes a man.
He could still shave though. Goodness.
At 3:15am, Kathy wakes up screaming about the DeFeo murders.
George's condition worsens as the day of Kathy's brother Jimmy's wedding approaches. The sicker he feels, the more agitated he gets. On the day of the wedding, Jimmy counts out $1500 cash that he needs to give to the caterer... and then the money vanishes.
The moment when $1500 goes missing is truly the scariest in the film.
I couldn't agree more. And what did the ghosts do with the money anyway?
George has to cover the cost, and when the caterer gives him grief over paying with a check, there is some indication that George could turn violent.
Well, the caterer said he only took cash. It's a wonder George got him to change his mind...I mean, if the guy saw him with an axe chopping the wood and stuff, it'd be hard to say no, but by then George just looks sick and drunk.
Having faked an illness, Amy is able to skip the wedding, staying at home with a teenage babysitter. When the babysitter attempts to tuck Amy in for the night, Amy says she wants to stay up and play with Jody. The babysitter sticks to the rules, entering Amy's walk-in closet to get her pajamas.
The door slams closed and locks behind the babysitter, despite having no lock on it, trapping her in the closet. Scared out of her mind, the girl pounds on the door until her knuckles bleed, but it won't budge, and Amy makes no attempt to help her. Then the closet light turns off by itself, plunging the girl into darkness.
The babysitter is still crying for help when Amy's family gets back home. George and Kathy let her out of the closet with no problem, and when asked why she didn't help her babysitter, Amy says her imaginary friend Jody wouldn't let her. The whole situation makes George very angry.
Amy is kind of spoiled and annoying though.
George's response to the Jody excuse really makes me laugh - "Jesus Christ, what the hell are we standing here listening to?"
Father Delaney hasn't been able to talk to the Lutzes, but he remains determined to help them. When the car Delaney is riding in with a fellow priest goes out of control, it just makes it more clear to him that there are evil forces at work. He tries to recruit help from other priests, but they shoot down his ideas, recommending that he take a vacation.
Stieger does a great job in the scene where he tries to convince the other priests (including Murray Hamilton from Jaws) to help him. This type of movie wasn't going to get him any awards, but that didn't stop him from acting his heart out.
It's one of my favorite scenes. Outstanding acting from Stieger.
On the Lutzes' 11th day in the house, George's business partner Jeff stops by, interrupting George's wood cutting to see why he hasn't been in to work and to deliver the news that the caterer's check bounced. George is so enraged by all the bad news that for a moment it seems like he might take his axe to the guy.
Jeff's girlfriend Carolyn refuses to even go near the house, staying in the car because the place gives her the creeps.
Kathy's son Greg is badly hurt when a window slams itself shut on his hand so tightly that George and Jeff have trouble getting the window off his hand. Luckily for him, no bones are broken.
When George wakes up at 3:15am that night, he finds a room full of flies. As he struggles to open a window to let the flies out, some of the downstairs doors start moving on their own... and then the front door explodes off the hinges. After this, the flies disappear and the window opens easily.
Suspecting an intruder, the Lutzes call the police. Sgt. Gionfriddo, a responding officer who also responded to the DeFeo murders wonders if George is related to the DeFeos, he looks so similar to the kid who did the killing.
We never got a good look at the kid, so we can't be sure that this is true, but George certainly is looking creepy at this point in the movie.
What is the point in making them look similar though? The evil spirits pick a certain type of looks? I don't get it.
While Gionfriddo and George check the basement together, the Lutz family dog sniffs and scratches at one of the walls, but George calls him away from the wall rather than investigate it.
George is again compared to DeFeo when he meets Jeff at a bar and at first glance the bartender thinks he is the family killer. Moments later, George demonstrates some violence of his own, punching his buddy in the mouth over his talk of financial trouble and accusations that George has taken on too much.
George and Jeff quickly patch things up, and are soon joined by Carolyn, who finds some interesting facts in a book on local history that George has stolen from the library. As it turns out, the DeFeo/Lutz house was built by a man named John Ketcham, who was driven out of Salem, Massachussetts for being a witch. The land the house was built on had been used for sacrifices in devil worship ceremonies. Not only that, but the land was also the place where a tribe of Indians would exile their members with mental issues to, abandoned to die there and then buried on the property.
There have been accusations over the years that the Lutzes made up everything they claimed to have experienced at the Amityville house, that it was all just a hoax. The explanation of this small plot of land being an Indian burial ground, the site of sacrifices to Satan, and the home of a witch definitely sounds like a poorly made up story.
I always found that part weird and out of place. Plus, if that was true, wouldn't they be able to find some bodies buried in the property?
Meanwhile, Kathy is experiencing some major strangeness at the house, the least of which is a visitor who disappears. Amy tells her some disturbing details about her interactions with her imaginary friend Jody: Jody has told her about a little boy who was killed in the house, and wants Amy to stay in the house forever so they can play forever.
When Kathy tries to call Father Delaney for help, the line fills with static and the priest starts to choke.
Watching this poor guy suffer is getting kind of old.
I'm glad he didn't die though. It always feels like he's going to, and then no.
That night, Kathy interrupts Amy and Jody in Amy's bedroom. Amy tells her that she scared Jody, and the friend left through the window. Going to the window, Kathy catches a glimpse of a red-eyed creature outside.
I would say that this moment is the most effective scare in the film, and yet I still don't find it to be very effective.
I find it very silly. It could've worked if done better, but not like this. It's not scary at all.
Jeff and Carolyn offer to babysit the kids so George and Kathy can have a night out on the town, and follow George home from the bar. Although Carolyn was too scared to go near the house earlier, she is now drawn to the supernatural feeling she gets from it. She can tell it's emanating from the basement, and she wants to see it for herself.
I don't get this. First she can't come any closer, and then she can't wait to go in? Hrm.
Carolyn and the Lutzes' dog lead Jeff and George to that one wall in the basement, when Carolyn senses there's a room hidden on the other side of the stone wall. She and George knock down that wall, revealing a small room with walls painted red. As soon as George looks into the room, he's confronted with the ghostly image of his own doppelganger.
Freaking out, the pitch of her voice changing, Carolyn says that the room sits over a well that is the passage to Hell. It must be covered.
This is so silly. People really believed this story?
As soon as the "extra" history of the place is revealed, the movie becomes quite uninteresting to me. Pretty much everything from that point on seems way too staged.
After Jeff and Carolyn leave, George and Kathy find that the silver cross hanging on the living room wall has turned upside down and been scorched black. Taking the cross, the couple walk through the house with it, saying a prayer. Their attempt to cleanse the place comes to an end when blisters develop on Kathy's skin.
Checking in with Father Delaney again, we watch the guy freak out while saying a prayer in church, and when his prayer ends he has gone blind.
The Father Delaney scenes are just annoying me now.
What annoys me about the whole thing with Father Delaney is that he can't seem to be able to tell Kathy what he needs to.
On their 18th night in the house, Kathy has a nightmare about George murdering her and Amy with his axe.
At daylight, George awakes screaming that he's coming apart. He has bloody marks on his foot that look like something has bitten him. Kathy wants them to pack up and leave, but George refuses to go anywhere, slaps her, and goes back to feeding wood into the fireplace.
Tired of not being able to reach Father Delaney, Kathy goes to visit him in person and still can't get to him, being turned away by a fellow priest. After all he's been through, Father Delaney has sort of checked out reality, he's just a shell of his former self.
Since meeting George, Sgt. Gionfriddo has been lurking outside the Lutz house and following them around. Following Kathy leads him to Delaney... and that's the last we see of either of them.
That Gionfriddo subplot really dead ends into a brick wall and ends up feeling like a waste of time.
Yeah... what was that? The movie is long enough that the subplot could've been developed better.
Looking over newspaper coverage of the DeFeo murders, Kathy is shocked to see that the killer was indeed identical to George.
As Kathy races home, George is sharpening his axe and something is starting to come up through the floor of the red room in the basement.
A titlecard appears on the screen to notify us that this is the last night the Lutzes spent in the Amityville house, and it's a dark and stormy night just like the one that began the film. The night of the DeFeo murders.
Kathy bursts into the house, screaming for her children, ready to get them out of here. But George has his axe, and he has finally gone off the deep end. Also lurking in the house is Jody, who is finally, fully revealing to be a giant, glowing eyed pig.
They didn't quite pull off that special effect.
Or any other, for that matter.
As George stalks through the house, axe in hand, blood begins to pour down the walls. Will George murder his family like the DeFeo kid did, or will he be able to break the evil's hold on him?
Most people who went to see the movie in 1979 probably already knew the answer to that question, and the Lutzes' escape from the house comes off as anticlimactic. Since the Lutzes were still married when the movie was made and living semi-normal lives, I guess the filmmakers wanted to make sure they didn't paint George as being a total maniac (like Jack Torrance in The Shining), so that "potential axe murderer" angle gets tossed aside very quickly.
I guess the whole movie just feels a little off. Not a lot of explanation, and some things just feel out of place. I am glad the ending was probably the best possible one though.
The Amityville Horror was a massive hit in 1979 and spawned a multi-installment franchise, but I wouldn't exactly call it a very good movie. A lot of the ghostly events and scares really just come off as silly, and the reason we're given for these things is totally ridiculous.
I feel like if the special effects were better, it would've brought some much needed improvement to the movie as a whole. It suffers from lack of more believable effects. Some of the things that could've been truly creepy seem too childish to take seriously.
The movie is also overly long at almost 119 minutes. What's going on in the Lutz house isn't interesting enough to sustain that running time, and there are story elements that go absolutely nowhere. The amount of Delaney scenes could have been whittled down and handled differently. Gionfriddo could have been cut completely and the movie wouldn't have lost anything.
Even though I definitely agree that the movie is way longer than it needs to be, I think the scenes with Father Delaney are basically what saves the movie. I wouldn't say they're scary, but as far as creepy, they're the most effective ones by far. If not for those scenes, the movie would've been kind of a bad joke.
I feel that what really carries the film and makes it watchable are the performances of James Brolin and Margot Kidder, Brolin especially. It's interesting to watch George gradually disintegrate, even if, like so many other things in the movie, it ultimately doesn't really go anywhere.
Add Rod Steiger's performance to that, and I'll join Cody in his opinion. And I always love seeing Margot Kidder, when it comes to bringing something special to a part, she never fails. I don't get why they dressed her up as a schoolgirl in some scenes - that's a little disturbing to me - but I do like her makeup in this movie. Subtle, doesn't scream late '70s/ early '80s at all. Very well done.
Something about the concept and setting captured the world's imagination in 1979. Despite the film not feeling effective to me, there are things about it that are remembered to this day. The look of the house, the voice saying "Get out!", the flies, the red room, even Jody. The filmmakers did something right in assembling these elements, there's no question about that.
Directing and score are pretty decent. And if there's one thing about the movie that really works, it's the look of the house. I really love how it changes depending on the lighting and music that it's accompanied by. The Amityville Horror 1979 isn't one of my favorite movies, or even one I've seen a bunch of times. I've only seen it a couple of times... mainly it's the pace that bothers me the most, and some aspects that I already mentioned, but it just feels like not much happens in the movie. That being said, it's not awful, and it's worth checking out... it does have its merits.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005)
The production company Platinum Dunes, headed up by Michael Bay, Bradley Fuller, and Andrew Form, made its debut with a film that was a remake with a very well known title: 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The initial idea behind Dunes was to make low budget movies that would be helmed by directors from the commercial and music video world, as Bay himself was. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the first feature for director Marcus Nispel, and with their second film they brought director Andrew Douglas into the feature world.
The success of the Chainsaw remake had proven to Platinum Dunes that horror remakes were a very viable business venture, and soon they were looking through the archives for more well known titles to make new versions of. The first post-TCM remake they got off the ground was The Amityville Horror, which they had their TCM writer Scott Kosar write the screenplay for.
The August 18, 1973 setting of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre had been retained for the remake, and similarly Kosar and the Dunes guys chose to keep Amityville in the 1970s as well. The film begins on the dark and stormy night of November 13, 1974, with twenty-three year old Ronald DeFeo, Jr. sitting in the basement of that famous home in Amityville, Long Island, New York, staring at a TV showing an "off the air" image with a Native American at the center.
When an otherworldy voice tells Ronald to "Catch them, kill them", he takes a rifle upstairs and murders his family.
The lightning flashes like a strobe light, the color is desaturated, there are cutaways from the bloody murders to the bloody crime scene photos. Douglas isn't hiding his music video roots.
I find this opening way too distracting. Gets annoying. I don't like it at all.
The last member of the DeFeo family to be killed is little Jodie DeFeo, who the crying Ronald finds hiding in a closet.
We're departing from the true crime story here. All of the DeFeos were killed in bed, and there was no Jodie DeFeo.
Images of news reports, crime scene photos, and coroner's reporters are cut together with screeching sound effects as a snippets of dialogue and voiceovers drive home what we just saw.
They say everyone was in bed. And then they say Jodie was found in the closet...well, then they weren't all in bed, were they?
One year later, we're introduced to Long Island newlyweds George and Kathy Lutz (Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George) as George struggles to fill the void that the death of Kathy's previous husband has left for her three young children, who are trying to figure out what to call him. Maybe Crap Monkey Fart? The oldest child, Billy, is taking the loss of his father the hardest. He even worries that he's being disloyal to his dad by liking George.
George and Kathy are looking to get a new house together, a search that leads them to the home that belonged to the DeFeos.
The house in this movie looks different, and much larger, than it did in any other Amityville film. They kept those iconic windows, but that part of the house was added on just for the movie.
The look of the house doesn't work for me. I prefer the house in the original movie.
The couple is shown around the house by a realtor who does a poor job of hiding the fact that she's scared of the place, and the strange shadows moving within it. She won't go into the basement, where George finds the alarm clock Ronald left behind, stuck at 3:15am. The time of the murders. Still, the realtor is able to sell the Lutzes on the discounted house, even after they've heard about the murders that were committed there.
The day the Lutzes move into their new home is a fun one for the whole family, presented as a montage of footage from their home videos. That night, however, the weirdness begins, around the same time that Kathy gets a call from her talkative mother.
Feeling a cold draft blowing up through the house's vents, George goes into the basement to stoke the fire in the wood burning stove. While down there, he spots the alarm clock again... and there seems to be whispering voices surrounding him. Or is that just the air in the vents?
In the middle of the night, Kathy climbs on top of George so they can christen their new home.
Douglas shoots this sex scene like he's making a softcore movie for late night airing on Skinemax, but look past the writhing bodies and you'll see that the production designer made an attempt to replicate that wall mirror that was all over the Lutzes' bedroom walls in the original film.
I'm really glad they kept the mirror!
When the clock ticks over to 3:15am, George is started to see the corpse of Jodie DeFeo hanging from a noose at the end of the bed. This ghostly image disappears as quickly as it appeared.
Why is a shooting victim hanging?
That's so weird.
The next day, Kathy finds her daughter Chelsea (Chloe Grace Moretz of Carrie 2013 and Let Me In) having a conversation with her invisible friend Jodie, who is actually that dead little girl, sitting on a chair in her room. Chelsea has also drawn the image of a man on her Etch-a-Sketch, a man that Jodie warns her not to tell Kathy about. Chelsea does tell her mom that the man in the drawing is an A-hole.
I didn't think the scares in the original worked, but I liked Rosenberg's approach better, not showing the spirits in the house. Except for those shots of Jody the demon pig. I don't think we should be seeing this dead little girl hanging out (sometimes literally) around the house.
Ideally, it should be somewhere in the middle. The original needed more suspenseful scenes and better effects. The remake shows Jodie and the other ghosts way too often.
The first time George is left alone with the kids at the house, he does a bad job of watching them. While George chops away at firewood, Kathy's middle child Michael explores the basement and finds an odd iron device, and Chelsea wanders down to the boathouse with Jodie.
In the middle of the night, Michael senses a presence as he makes his way to the bathroom. He successfully does his toilet business, but can't get the sink faucet to work. After a blood-drooling ghoul appears beside him, blood starts dripping from the faucet.
Michael doesn't even see this over-the-top, overly made-up ghoul, it's there solely for the audience.
I think it's best that he didn't see it, that only sensing it was enough to scare him out of his mind.
Windows open on their own, chairs move, and at 3:15am George awakens from a nightmare in which he sees himself standing with a rifle in the boys' room while blood runs from a light switch.
Looking outside, George sees the boathouse door, which is supposed to be padlocked, swinging open. The red balloon Chelsea had earlier comes floating out of it. George rushes down there and even dives into the water when he sees bubbles rising to the surface, but there's no sign of Chelsea.
I like how he doesn't think twice about it, and just jumps in. By then he was still able to fight whatever was trying to take over him.
So we get a dripping wet Ryan Reynolds sporting six pack abs, a holdover from him being in comic book character shape for the previous year's Blade: Trinity.
They were really pimping him out, weren't they?
George does spot Chelsea standing in those quarter moon windows, accompanied by the ghostly Jodie. When he gets inside the house, Chelsea is asleep in bed. And Jodie is being held captive by two arms coming out of the ceiling of Chelsea's closet, where she had been killed.
I am baffled by how utterly ridiculous some of the imagery in this film is. The sight of a ghost being held to a ceiling by another ghost is supposed to be scary to us?
It makes no sense. Why would a ghost be holding Jodie captive? Hrm.
Billy and his dog Harry get the blame for George's bad night. Billy because George finds the boathouse keys in his room and Harry because he barks and digs at a wall in the basement. When Kathy tries to comfort her husband, he tells her not to treat her like one of her kids.
On their 15th day in the house, Kathy notices that someone has arranged the alphabet magnets on their refrigerator to say "Katch 'Em and Kill 'Em". When the letters are all scrambled up at next glance, she decides she was just seeing things.
That night, George and Kathy have a date night and hire a babysitter to take care of the kids while they're out. Enter Rachel Nichols as the belly shirt-wearing Lisa, who Billy is instantly enamored with. Lisa has a secret motive for taking the job: she used to babysit for the DeFeos as well, and she's excited to visit the scene of the murders.
And there it is... the late '70s hooker makeup I'm so glad they didn't use on Kathy the first time around, or in the remake for that matter. Though I have to say, Kathy's clothes and makeup in the remake don't say '70s to me at all. Not even close.
I really hate this sequence. Lisa is an awful person and an awful character.
Lisa is pretty nasty.
While George and Kathy have a pleasant dinner, Lisa is hitting a bong and lounging on Billy's bed, asking if he Frenches and telling him the story of Ronald DeFeo Jr. hearing voices, killing the family dog, then murdering his family because he thought they were demons.
Actress Amy Wright was, shockingly, in her late twenties when she played the orthodontic headgear-sporting babysitter in the original film. She looked like a teenager, which is what I suspect Lisa is supposed to be, but Nichols looks older than her mid-twenties. Meanwhile, Jesse James looks a bit younger than his mid-teens. The perceived age gap between the two makes their scenes come off as even more inappropriate than they would be to begin with.
Again something that missed the mark, and should've been somewhere in the middle. The babysitter in the original is just really boring, and the one in the remake is mean and deeply inappropriate. I do like Rachel Nichols though and I think that was a great performance, albeit a brief one.
Jodie tells Chelsea that Lisa is a bad babysitter, and Lisa shows no remorse over Jodie's death because the little girl had gotten her fired from working for the DeFeos. Billy dares Lisa to go into the closet where Jodie was killed, and Lisa accepts the challenge.
The door shuts and locks behind Lisa, trapping her inside the closet with Jodie. Telling her "Look what Ronnie did", Jodie takes Lisa's hand and slides one of her fingers into the bullet hole in her forehead.
I think this scene is more effective this time around.
When George and Kathy get home, Lisa is so traumatized that she has to be taken away in an ambulance. George is very angry with the boys, but Chelsea confides in Kathy that Jodie is the one who hurt Lisa, and that there's also a "bad man" lurking within their home who is terrorizing Jodie.
Billy is punished with hours of stacking the wood George has chopped, even missing supper.
My favorite part of the movie is the exchange between Kathy and George during this supper. "Is this discipline or torture?" "I thought it was meatloaf."
George hallucinates finding a room hidden behind the wall Harry was digging at. A room full of tables, and a groove cut into the floor to drain away the blood of people murdered on those tables. On one table is a mutilated body revealed to be George himself. Mutilated George tells regular George to kill.
George tries to relax with a bath, but instead experiences multiple arms rising from the water, grabbing and ripping at him.
The hallucinations have gotten so bad that George seeks medical help, including head x-rays that don't find anything out of the ordinary. George does note that every time he leaves the house, he starts feeling better. The doctor recommends that he consult a psychiatrist.
Returning home, George and Kathy find that Chelsea has followed Jodie out onto the peak of their huge house. Jodie encourages Chelsea to jump off the house so she can see her father, and then stay in the house and play with her forever. And Chelsea does jump. Luckily, Kathy is able to catch her, then get her down with George's help.
No ridiculous camera or editing tricks, a naturalistic look for the image, this is the most well shot and most effective sequence in the film. Even if it does just make me think of Wes Craven's New Nightmare. This house is insanely large and I don't like heights, so I definitely wouldn't want to be Chelsea or Kathy up on that roof.
This is, by far, the creepiest part of the movie to me. I'm also not a fan of heights, so it truly gets to me.
After the excitement, Kathy and Chelsea tearfully talk about whether or not Jodie is is real and about the loss of Chelsea's father.
Some great emotion from both of the actresses in this scene. It's crazy that Moretz could emote so well at just seven years old.
Very inspired scene. And because of Chloe Grace Moretz, the little girl role has so much more going. Amy was pretty lame in Amityville '79, and Chelsea is great in Amityville '05.
Tired of this wacko family, George moves into the basement, the warmest area in the house. He also continues chopping wood for the stove, having Billy help him and forcing him to play a "fun" game where Billy has to hold the wood in place while George swings his axe into it.
Watching their home movies by himself, George is startled to see Billy's face in the film distort into a demonic image.
At 3:15am, George is woken up by a voice whispering "Catch 'em, kill 'em." The basement door opens on its own, leading George upstairs. The front door is also standing wide open. Hearing Harry barking in the boathouse, George grabs his axe and goes looking for an intruder. He finds one. That blood-drooling ghoul comes lunging out of the darkness at him. But once he's chopping into it with his axe, it turns out to be Harry.
Aww. Poor Harry... I hate when the cute innocent pets get killed in horror movies!
George gets angry, insulting, and physical with Kathy when she suggests that they need to leave the house later that day. Doesn't look like that's going to be happening, but Kathy does get a priest, Philip Baker Hall as Father Callaway, to come over to bless the house.
Up till this point, I had completely forgotten about the priest. So, they did something right and the remake didn't need Father Callaway like the original needed Father Delaney.
Callaway's arrival interrupts one of George's home improvements projects: screwing the windows shut so they'll stop opening all the time. Callaway knew the DeFeos, and is disturbed to see the doll that Chelsea has been playing with since the Lutzes moved in. That toy belonged to Jodie DeFeo, and she was buried with it.
That part is actually a very chilling touch, the fact that Jodie was buried with that teddy bear and yet it's in the house.
Callaway proceeds with his blessing, but is distracted by a sound coming from a heating vent in the wall. It turns out to be a swarm of flies that explodes out into his face, throwing him backwards. The room's door opens on its own, a voice demands that Callaway "Get out!", and the priest does so.
Callaway is a very thankless role for Hall, who is one of my favorite actors. He certainly could have handled the same type of dramatic scenes that Stieger had, but I can't say I'm disappointed that Callaway had less scenes than Stieger's Delaney.
Like I said, the remake doesn't need more scenes with the priest because there are jump scares and tense bits all over the movie regardless. The original lacks that for the most part.
Another option having failed, Kathy does some research on her new home. She reads all about the DeFeo murders, discovering the fact that Ronald Jr. had only been living with his family in that house for 28 days when he killed them. Then she digs deeper, unearthing the story of Reverend Jeremiah Ketcham. A man who built a torture chamber in the basement of the home where he murdered more than twenty Native Americans. Ketcham slit his own throat in the house so his presence could remain there forever.
Though I'm still not crazy about the "added" history of the house, I feel like it's done better in the remake.
Meanwhile, George has either busted into the torture chamber or is dreaming about it. Walking past cells full of Ketcham's bloody victims. Coming face-to-face with Ketcham himself. George has heard Harry barking, despite being dead. He has been hearing whispering voices for days. The TV in the basement has come on by itself and shown him the "off the air" screen with the Native American image that DeFeo saw. It's the 28th day, and George has officially gone off the deep end now.
The sequence of George going through the torture chamber is as music video as it gets, it's just lacking the heavy metal song over top of it. I can't take this kind of stuff seriously in a feature film.
Kathy rushes home just in time for George to grab a shotgun and his trusty axe to go after his family with, seeing them as demons. As Kathy and the kids try to escape from George on this dark and stormy night, the doors and windows work against them. The house doesn't want them to escape.
The remake goes much farther with George being a potential murderer. As a result, the real George Lutz sued the filmmakers for portraying him as a madman. He passed away in early 2006, before the lawsuit could be resolved. Kathy had passed away in 2004. Sadly, both were only in their late fifties when they died. They had gotten divorced in the late '80s.
I wonder which George is closer to real George. I hope the one from the original, because remake one goes totally nuts.
The Amityville Horror 2005 is a much more streamlined telling of the basic story, as evidenced by its thirty minute shorter running time. This one is over 89 minutes after it begins. That is a positive mark in its favor, as the original went on too long with subplots that went nowhere. The Douglas/Kosar film cuts out the curious cop, has a lot less of the priest, and doesn't focus on the couple's finances as much - nothing about disappearing money or bounced checks.
As far as pace goes, the remake is the winner. And the fact that it's more intense and more dynamic than the original, are also points in its favor in my opinion.
What Douglas and Kosar played up more is the gradual disintegration of George's mental state. I think it's handled effectively for the most part, and Reynolds does good work in the role. Melissa George and the child actors also did quite well with what they were given to work with.
I agree. And I feel like the kids had way more to do in the remake. They're better actors and the roles are more developed as well. It shows their relationship with their mother and with George, and with them being more involved, it makes you hope even harder for a happy ending.
The remake's downfall, for me, comes from Douglas's music video sensibilities. How flashy he makes everything, both literally (there are a lot of flash frames in the editing) and figuratively, with how slick and polished everything looks.
Yes, glossy doesn't always mean better. Something else that I could've done without is the abundance of apparitions and jump scares. Some are okay, but there are just too many, too often.
The movie is very obviously pandering to the teenage demographic with its style, and it doesn't work for me. Flashy editing isn't scary, nor is the way the ghosts are presented here. Seeing these metal video rejects around the house just completely takes me out of it. And don't even get me started on that ridiculous Lisa character.
I do like the score though. Other than acting and pace, it's probably my favorite aspect of the movie.
Amityville '05 ends up being a mixed bag for me. I like the acting and how the Lutzes are handled, but I hate how a lot of the ghostly aspects are handled. It's worth watching if you want to see Ryan Reynolds go nuts, but I wouldn't recommend it as a haunted house/ghost movie. The ghosts are too lame.
Same here... I have mixed feelings about it, and if I had to pick between '05 and '79, it'd be pretty tough. They both have good and not so good things about them, but to me, in the end of the day, it comes down to which one I'm more in the mood for. These are movies I haven't seen too many times, but if I want to watch one of them, things like atmosphere, length and pace would be the deciding factors, based on what would suit my mood better in that specific occasion.