This is part of my Horrorathon for Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (aka MASK). Is It Worth It? is where I talk about sequels a lot of people skip, and determine if they are worth a visit or better left in the bargain bin. Fair warning, there will be spoilers in my recap, so if you just want the verdict skip to the bottom.
The IMDb summary is a huge spoiler on this one, so I will summarize. A single mother and her three children, including her comatose son, move into the infamous Amityville house. When the son starts to make a seemingly miraculous recovery, his sister suspects something sinister is at work.
This is considered the tenth and final entry in the “official” Amityville franchise. It was delayed numerous times, experiencing a lot of issues and reshoots. It was finally released to very little fanfare in October 2017.
With a 4.8 on IMDb, I am not expecting much.
We begin the film with archival news footage and voiceovers describing the infamous DeFeo murders. The news footage even explains the “High Hopes” sign seen in the remake was actually an accessory the DeFeos hung up to represent their good fortune with the house. We are then treated to an exterior establishing shot of THE HOUSE.
It is now 40 years later, and we are introduced to a single mom and her three children moving into the infamous house with windows that looks like eyes. We have mom Joan, little Juliet, and twins Belle and James. Belle is an edgy Goth straight out of a Warp Tour carpool.
James is in a comatose state following some unspecified accident that Belle seems to feel guilty for. Oh no. I just realized we have a comatose character and the movie is titled Amityville: The Awakening. I think I know where this is going.
Belle goes to school, and makes a friend if friends are people that continually harass you about living in a spooky house.
That night Belle is also harassed by a sassy window sill that won’t stay down. What I love about this moment is how spooked she looks before turning back, even though most people would immediately turn back right away because you wouldn’t instantly know something creepy happened.
After the window sill shows up and shows out, Belle hears her brother’s heart monitor beeping. Joan comes in and gives him a syringe of something which seems to make it worse. When Joan bitterly accuses Belle of wanting James to die, Belle replies “it’s what God would want.” Joan is not a fan of this response.
James opens his eyes, and Joan becomes hopeful it means he will make a miraculous recovery despite their neurosurgeon reminding her no one has ever recovered from what James has before.
The next day at school, Terrance presents Belle with an all TOO familiar object for me.
Yes. This film has just created its own universe in our reality where the previous Amityville films exist. Or at least the first two and the remake, all of which get specifically brought up.
Later, we see something writhing around next to Belle in her bed that she assumes is Juliet but is in fact not. She also sees images of blood on the wall and Ronnie DeFeo before waking up.
Terrance and his girlfriend Marissa basically invite themselves over to Belle’s house because as Terrance aptly puts it, “how often do you get to watch The Amityville Horror in the actual Amityville house?”
Terrance also observes that there is a circle around the house as if a protective ritual was done at some point to prevent evil from escaping out. I wonder if this will come up again?
After Terrance presents the movie options which include Amityville II: The Possession and the 2005 remake (which Marissa and Belle both reject because “remakes always blow”), they settle on the original, going so far as to show clips from the surprisingly effective “passage to hell” scene.
I love how indifferent the teens look to the original. They are still watching the movie at 3:15 am aka spook-a-clock, and the power goes out. They attempt to find the fuse box in the basement and Belle’s mom nearly kills them with a shotgun thinking they are intruders.
The next day, James’s neurosurgeon Dr.Milton visits. He continues to try and explain to Joan that James is unlikely to recover. While alone in James’s room, he notices flies and maggots under James’s body. The flies proceed to go full Amityville and fly into Dr. Milton’s mouth.
He then realizes it was all a hallucination, but still tells Joan, “I can’t really explain it, but I don’t think there’s anything more I can do for you” before bouncing out of that house faster than Sonic running to get a chili cheese dog.
Later that night, a rando demon humanoid locks Juliet in her closet, and Belle sees her mom naked in her brother’s bed!
It’s so brief you can blink and miss it, but it seems pretty suggestive. Joan even turns around and looks at Belle, albeit as if she is in a trance. Belle also has a nightmare that her brother is no longer disabled, and fires a shotgun at her ala Ronnie DeFeo style, so we can infer the scene of her mom getting a little too close to her brother was part of that nightmare, as well as Juliet being attacked (even though Belle wasn’t in the room).
The next day, Belle’s mom and aunt are delighted to show her that James is able to use a Speech Generation Device to communicate which they inexplicably decide to keep secret from Dr. Milton. He types to Belle that he “forgives” her.
In a very random next scene that was obviously shoehorned in to communicate the backstory of James’s injury to the audience, Marissa is hanging out with Belle in her room. Belle reveals that she sent sexy pictures to a crush, and the crush shared them with everyone at her old school. James confronted him, and the resulting fight led to James falling off a balcony. Marissa reasonably explains this was not Belle’s fault, but she still has a hard time forgiving herself. She is also doubtful of James’s inexplicable recovery.
In the school library, Belle Marissa, and Terrance discuss what could be happening with James. Terrance as usual has a theory: that the evil in the house is possessing James. He tells Belle about the infamous red room/well to hell that she already knows about because he made her watch the movie. Marissa, in a comment that is far too logical for this film, reminds the others that plenty of other families have lived in the house these past 40 years and nothing happened to them. Terrance has a theory on this too:
James: 40 years, that’s a very significant number in the Bible. “And the land had peace 40 years”. So, maybe the evil only latches on every 40 years.
Belle: No, that’s stupid
Marissa: Dude, seriously? The Bible?
But Belle decides to ask James herself. He indicates with the computer that there is something else inside him, and to kill him please and she just goes for it almost immediately. Which…I feel like you would need slightly more convincing than that? But of course Mama Bear comes and stops her, berating her until she realizes James is breathing without his machine. Joan is once again delighted to see James make progress.
Belle hypothesizes that getting James away from the house might weaken the possession, so she types the words “outside walk” on his computer for her mom to find. The mom is delighted by this communication. James is…less so.
Belle uses the rest of the family being outside on a walk as an opportunity to use a conveniently located tool to break down the fake wall in the basement hiding the red room. Something spooky is afoot. James manages to stop mom from rolling him over the protective spell line by Juliet crying out when she finds the family dog dead in the water. Juliet’s cries lead to Belle running outside and narrowly missing the brick helpfully labeled “Kill Them All.”
That night, Belle’s mom decides to drop a real truth bomb on her by telling her that “God gave up on them, so she gave up on God.” And that she purposely moved them into the Amityville house hoping to harness its demonic energy to help James recover. Belle is understandably upset by this, but Joan disregards her concerns.
Belle decides enough is enough, and tries to flee the house in the middle of the night with Juliet, but Joan knocks her out before they can leave, leading to one of my favorite little moments in the film.
Once Belle realizes her mom really did hit her, she races to try and stop spook-a-clock from killing her whole family. Unfortunately James goes into the red room and…touches the wall till the house completely heals his body I guess?
Then just like Ronnie, he grabs a shotgun and goes a hunting for his family.
Great timing too – Aunt Candice has inexplicably shown up at the house at 3:15am, so he manages to kill her almost instantly.
He shoots at what he presumes is Juliet’s body, but she has safely hidden from him. Then he pays Joan a visit. She holds a cross up against him, but it is a little too late for that. As James reminds her, she gave up on God, so God cannot help her now. He then shoots her twice, killing her.
All that is left is his beloved sisters. When he realizes Juliet is still alive, he takes aim at her. But Belle runs at him and manages to knock him out one of the infamous windows that looks like eyes.
They are both injured after the fall from the top floor to the grass, but James broke Belle’s fall so he is in much worse shape. James starts to sound like himself, pleading with her to help him. But then he specifies that helping him would mean bringing him back into the house like “mom would want.” This is enough to let Belle know it is not really James. So she grabs him, and in one of the sillier moments of the film she drags him across the grass till they exit the protective circle. James thanks her as his body once again reverts back to its original self before he quickly dies.
Juliet races out of the house, and Belle explains that the cops will be on the scene soon, and that Juliet must tell them James attacked them and killed their mom and aunt.
The film ends in a way I rather enjoyed, as we once again are treated to news footage. This footage recounts what happened to Belle and her family, citing Belle as the main suspect in the murders. The news reporter says Belle and Juliet insists James did everything, and forensic evidence points to James. But Dr. Milton insists it could not have possibly been James.
And that is how the movie ends – leaving us to decide ourselves what we think happens to Belle.
- The house is surprisingly subdued in this film, which I really appreciate. We’ve come along way since the second film where blood pours from a sink within minutes of the characters moving in.
- This is the type of plot I assumed MOST these films would follow. Nothing prepared me for four films that didn’t even take place in the house the franchise is named after.
- It fascinates me the way this film reverts back to a very religious elements, albeit in a somewhat half-hearted way. It heavily implies that Joan’s downfall is her turning her back on God and embracing the demonic force of the Amityville house. Terrance hypothesizes that it took 40 years for the house to try and possess someone else because of the number’s significance in the Bible. Perhaps most interesting is Belle’s “it is what God would want” while describing why James shouldn’t be kept alive in the state he is in. It seems to suggest Joan lost her way with God, but Belle always had it. But none of the characters make any other overt mentions of religion or attend church. Also, a doctor takes the place of the priest character in this one, and his skepticism/inability to accept the evidence in front of him is painted as antagonistic, especially in the end when he insists Belle murdered everyone. The way religion is used in this 2017 film seems more dated than its use in earlier films in the franchise.
- I can’t get over the way the film established a shockingly rare platonic friendship between a boy and a girl, and then abitarately introduced his girlfriend in order for Belle to have a female confidant for one scene.
- Also that Terrance and Marissa basically just disappear after a while – their only purpose was to introduce the meta content of the movie
- The film does seems to really honor its predecessors, Amityville II: The Possession. Cameron Monaghan’s performance and some of the overheard angles they use on him are clear nods to Sonny
- I would be curious to see reviews from critics with disabilities for this film. On one hand, it mostly avoids using James’s appearance itself as a source of horror. And he is evil/not himself when he is “healed” by the evil force of the house. But it still resorts to at least one jump scare and moments that use his appearance to drum up horror, and Belle states multiple times “it isn’t really James” even before she suspects something supernatural is happening.
This isn’t a great movie, but I would absolutely recommend it as one of the better Amityville movies. It is enriched by being familiar with its predecessors (namely the first two), but it also could stand on its own as a movie to laugh at with friends or a refreshing case of a horror film at least trying to have an original script and character motivations within the familiar trappings of a haunted house movie.
So if you are looking for a decent Amityville movie, I recommend this. If you are looking for a movie to laugh at, I also recommend this.
And I’m apparently not alone in my high ranking of this film versus some of the others. Witney Siebold of IGN wrote, “while largely a generic haunting film without much in the way of a hook beyond its famous setting, can at least claim to be one of the more watchable Amityville films, for whatever that praise may be worth,” and deemed it “perhaps the best Amityville film since 1983.” It also has the most favorable Rotten Tomatoes score with a whopping 30%, beating the original’s 27%. Most franchises could only hope to end on such a relative high note.