This is part of my Horrorathon for Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (aka MASK). Revisiting is a series where I revisit a horror film I’ve already seen a long time ago to see if I feel the same way about it. I remember enjoying The Amityville Horror – will this revisit change my mind? Let’s find out.
Also a word of warning – if you don’t want spoilers, skip the recap and go straight to the verdict.
From IMDb: Newlyweds are terrorized by demonic forces after moving into a large house that was the site of a grisly mass murder a year before.
This is a remake of the original film that launched the series. It was also produced by Michael Bay during his slew of 2000s horror remakes which explains a lot. The pacing and editing of this film is very much a product of its time.
We start in November 13, 1973 with a young Ronnie DeFeo watching a standby screen with the image of a Native American and the most egregious use of flashing lights in a movie I have ever seen. The editing of this introduction is truly offensive to me.
Ronnie grabs a shotgun, and seems to start killing his family against his will. After he shoots his youngest sister Jodie we get an establishing exterior shot of…a house with windows that look like eyes, and a sign outside that inexplicably says “High Hopes” like the house has a title now.
A year later, we meet our new Lutz family with Ryan Reynolds and his six pack in the lead role of George Lutz.
We find out once again Kathy’s children are from a previous marriage, and there is some tension between them and their new stepdad. The older boy, Billy, seems a tad antagonistic towards George who seems to be taking it in stride.
Kathy and George are looking for a new home, and see a listing that is absolutely too good to be true for a certain house we all know and love. The real estate agent mentions the house’s basement was built in 1692 and it is one of the oldest Dutch colonials. The real estate agent also sees a spooky shadow and keeps going with the sales pitch. Respect for the hustle!
Although it seems like she is going to purposely leave it out, she eventually tells them the reason it is so cheap is because a family was murdered there a year earlier. Kathy and George are unnerved, but as George says “houses don’t kill people. People kill people.” I’m sure he will not live to regret those words.
On the first night, George feels cold and starts to hear some creepy noises in the basement. While trying to christen the house with Kathy, George sees an apparition of Jodie DeFeo hanging herself from the ceiling at the end of the bed.
Meanwhile, their daughter Chelsea is already talking to ghosts and keeping secrets. While George was supposed to be keeping an eye on her, Chelsea wanders off into the boathouse with her little Pennywise balloon and nearly drowns herself because “her friend Jodie” told her to go in there or something.
That night, we get the usual Mad Libs: Haunted House Edition with bleeding sinks, moving chairs, and George almost seeing a glimpse of Jodie’s spirit being held captive by another spirit.
But this Mad Libs comes with a welcome twist of Ryan Reynolds being gratuitously shirtless for an extended amount of time.
George is starting to act on edge all the time. Meanwhile Kathy is being haunted by an evil Pokemon Go player with questionable spelling abilities.
Between the Mad Libs and flagrant shirtlessness, Kathy and George decide they need a fancy night out to an Italian restaurant that is seemingly located in a strip mall. They hire Lisa, who might be the world’s worst babysitter.
Kathy offers to show Lisa around, but Lisa tells her she already knows the house because she used to babysit for the DeFeos. She remarks on how weird it is to be back in the house again. This is shaping up to be a masterclass in why you don’t hire random babysitters from flyers in grocery stores.
Lisa smokes weed in the bathroom and asks 12-year-old Billy if he French kisses, but thankfully doesn’t offer to practice with him. She then decides to change subjects by telling him exactly what happened to the DeFeos. She then admits that she has “probably” freaked him out and that she sucks at babysitting.
Chelsea decides to inform Lisa that her ghost buddy Jodie agrees that Lisa is a bad babysitter, and Lisa mentions that Jodie got her fired for being a bad babysitter.
Billy dares Lisa to shut herself into Chelsea’s closet, and the door slams shut on her. Jodie’s ghost is waiting in there, and forces Lisa to stick her finger into the gaping bullet hole in her head. It is one of the more memorable moments from the film, but I’ll spare you the image because gross.
Kathy and George are upset, thinking the children played a prank on Lisa (who was taken away on a stretcher in a nearly catatonic state). George says he will be handling the disciplining of the children from now on since Kathy obviously cannot. The next night, George punishes Billy by having him skip dinner in order to stack firewood. When Kathy asks him if this is overdoing it, George says “when the body suffers, the spirit flowers.” George is completely out of line, but Kathy seems unable to call him out on it.
Later that evening, George sees a mutilated apparition of himself that tells him to “catch and kill them.”
George does the only thing he knows how to do, and that is to take his shirt off. Okay to be fair he is taking a bath – one that results in a near drowning when an evil spirit attacks him. This leads to a hospital visit with the doctor assuring him and Kathy that he is okay physically, but may want to see a psychiatrist. George takes this suggestion about as well as you would imagine. Also this is just a small example of the jumpy mid-aughts editing going on in this movie:
At home, Billy is doing what he does best which is being the worst and drinking milk straight out of a glass gallon. Chelsea asks if she can go get her teddy bear and helpfully doesn’t add she will be bringing the teddy bear up on the roof to trapeze around just in time for George and Kathy to arrive home.
This is probably the best scene in the movie, using the boats in the distance and the angling to really give a sense that the characters could fall to their deaths at any moment.
Afterwards, George asks “what’s the matter with you people?” and moves his stuff downstairs to the basement, giving Kathy an opportunity to shoehorn in a visit to a priest. Actual dialogue from the least helpful priest in the whole series:
Kathy: It’s my family. We’ve changed. It’s– it’s like we’ve grown apart.
Father Callaway: I don’t think I understand.
Kathy: There’s something…. there’s something evil in my house. I know it sounds… …crazy, I know that. I would think the same. I just don’t know where else to go.
Father Callaway: There was a family… …lived here some time ago. They had a similar problem.
Kathy: The Defeos.
Priest: You knew them?
Kathy: I’m living in their house.
Why is a priest so confused by someone saying their family is growing apart? Wouldn’t that be a common thing to get counseled on?
Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds is giggling while he watches his own family movies.
A jump scare (and I guess a demon…) trick George into axing Billy’s dog to death in the boat house. You know Ryan is not himself at this point because he investigates the strange noise with a shirt on.
The next day, Father Callaway comes to the house, and mentions to Kathy that the teddybear Chelsea is holding was buried with Jodie DeFeo. So right away he knows something is very wrong in this place.
He tries to bless the house and gets attacked by a swarm of CGI flies before a disembodied voice says “Get out” and he just runs straight out the house while ignoring Kathy’s pleas to explain what is going on.
Having been abandoned by a priest which is a good indication one should give up, Kathy visits the local library.
Kathy finds out that a Reverend Jeremiah Ketcham started a missionary for Native Americans in order to secretly torture and slaughter them, and slit his own throat on the land in an attempt to make his spirit live on there forever.
Meanwhile, George finds the hidden room in the basement where Ketcham kept the imprisoned men. The basement apparitions jump out at George ala Thir13en Ghosts before he finds the spirit of Ketcham himself who sprays him with blood to seal the deal on the possession.
Kathy tries to call George and tell him they must leave the house, and George responds by ripping the phone off the wall. When she gets home, rather than rounding up the kids she goes after George first. He is acting erratically, so she runs back into the house to get the children and finds that George has helpfully built handmade coffins for each of them.
George has gone full on possessed and Kathy blows her opportunity to run away by trying to barricade him while the house traps them all inside. Meanwhile one of the kids screams “Mommy why are you wet?” which is hardly the most pressing of her concerns.
Kathy and the kids post up on the roof and manage to knock George off of it. He recovers pretty quickly, and repeatedly tries to kill Billy because let’s be honest…Billy is the most annoying. Fortunately (I guess?) Kathy stops George from killing Billy. He has a brief vision of murdering Kathy before he finally slips out of his possessed state and begs her to kill him so it will stop. She knocks him out, and tells the kids they urgently need to get him away from the house. So instead of driving away, they decide to speedboat away? After they leave, the house seems to reset itself for another Mad Libs haunting, with Jodie still looking on.
- I might be in the minority with this one, but to me Ryan Reynolds seems to always be playing a variation of himself. Which isn’t terrible because he seems like a cool person, but it was impossible for me to become fully engrossed in the movie because of him being the lead.
- Kathy is WAY too easy going in this one when George starts to lash out and act differently. He basically abuses Billy and she still doesn’t react appropriately till her tries to attack her at the very end.
- Ketcham appears to be the source of the evil in this one, and his spirit even torments the spirit of Jodie who is seemingly the only other ghost in the house. We aren’t given a reason why Ketcham kills Native Americans, but could extrapolate that he believed they were secretly demons which is what leads Ronnie and George to go after their families.
- Father Callaway is so obviously shoehorned into the script it should have just been dropped, but I guess they felt obligated to have the priest/flies moment no matter how out of place it feels in this one.
Would highly recommend if you really want to see Ryan Reynolds shirtless. Otherwise, this movie is pretty soulless and bad. It shocks me it has a 6.0 on IMDb, and I truly believe that score is from people who haven’t revisited the movie since the early aughts. It was a different time back then, and it has aged badly like ghost goo on the walls of a creepy hidden basement room. Honestly, I went into this series sure that this would be a top contender for my favorite Amityville, but upon reviewing the footage I would only rank it slightly better than the original.
Next, I will be watching 2017’s Amityville: The Awakening. Will this movie somehow be good? It’s ominously quiet release and fade from public perception tells me no, but I am determined to find out first hand and report back.