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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Amityville Horror (2005)

"It's beautiful!"
- Kathy Lutz (Melissa George)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 11, 2005

Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George
Other Stars: Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Moretz, Rachel Nichols, Philip Baker Hall, Isabel Conner, Annabel Armour, Brendan Donaldson
Director: Andrew Douglas

MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing images, language, brief sexuality, drug use
Run Time: 01h:29m:14s
Release Date: October 04, 2005
UPC: 027616120915
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-B-A- B

DVD Review

Horror fan that I am, I've never been completely enamored of the whole haunted house storyline, because watching windows or doors slam shut by themselves just never really could manage to give me the willies.

That hasn't stopped Hollywood from periodically cranking them out over the years to some moderate genre success, though only a few have ever crossed over the line to the mainstream. The 1979 Stuart Rosenberg-directed version of The Amityville Horror, with the luxury of having been based on Jay Anson's best selling telling of the "real life story" of the Lutz family, has become synonymous with possessed dwellings.

Rosenberg's film was more of a mood-based spooker that had some fine, tempered scares, though it looks a bit dog-eared these days, so it isn't all that shocking that an updated, more frenetic remake should finally pop up. The team responsible for this new version—including screenwriter Scott Kosar and producers Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fullerówere also behind the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so maybe the inevitable nature of revisiting a project like this shouldn't be all that surprising. I'm torn on the whole remake mania that seems to permeate filmmaking today, though I guess I get it, because most young audiences—weaned on fast-paced, somewhat hollow scares—might find laughable what another strata of film fans would consider "classic."

Screenwriter Scott Kosar (The Machinist) has fleshed out a slightly deeper, more satisfying payoff here, though the basics of the story are essentially the same as with the Rosenberg's film—thankfully still set in the 1970s—with George (Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy (Melissa George) Lutz moving them and her three young children into a new home that was the scene of a horrific multiple murder by Ronnie DeFeo (Brendan Donaldson), a man who claimed voices told him to kill his entire family. We all know that there is something creepy about that house, and it isn't long before George is taken over by the same malevolent spirit, while a bullet-riddled little girl rockets around the house, often lurking in closets to scare the bejesus out everyone, including the hot, pot-smoking babysitter with the rock-hard abs.

The jumpscare and violence factor has been noticeably over-caffienated in this revisitation, and first-time feature director Andrew Douglas checks off such obligatory things like slamming doors and windows, outlets that drip blood, disembodied voices, sizzling holy water and refrigerator magnets that move by themselves to spell out creepy phrases. The entire film move with the predictable escalation of fidgety spookiness, and while some of the jump-in-your-seat moments work quite well, too many of them seem to telegraph their presence with a generic familiarity. There are some visually exciting sequences, one in particular with 7-year-old Chelsea Lutz (Chloe Moretz) wandering across the high rooftop of the old house, and Douglas uses high crane shots to turn this into a keenly harrowing moment in a film that often falls back on traditional spook house moves.

There isn't anything fundamentally or structurally wrong with this remake—it is no better and certainly no worse than most its ilk—and all of the haunted house action (including the requisite flies-attacking-a-priest bit) are here, presented with a slick, polished visual veneer linked with jumpscare after jumpscare. It isn't really as scary as it is designed to make viewers flinch, but it is packaged in such a way that even with the predictable stingers it moves along like an empty-headed guilty pleasure.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen from MGM, this transfer is something of a disappointment, but not wholly awful. The palette has an intentional mid-1970s softness to them, and the transfer here does a solid job rendering them accurately and warmly. Outdoor sequences look slightly brighter, and scenes like the rooftop walk by Chelsea display a pleasing array of colors that doesn't always match the rest of the film.

Detail is generally quite strong, the big beef comes with the frequent amounts of shimmer and compression issues throughout, and while sometimes these things can be overlooked, this time around it nears the distraction level.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: While the image transfer has a few problems, the audio side of things tries to make up for it. There are two options available (English or French dub) in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and this is one of those tracks where you may need to either turn down your sub a bit or make sure your pictures are secure to your walls. This one really rumbles like a freight train early and often, and it helps to sell the frequent jumpscares. The rears get used often, and all of those discrete disembodied voices and unearthly creaks move around to create a full soundfield that does what it can to make sure you jump when you're supposed to.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
14 Other Trailer(s) featuring Into The Blue, Stealth, The Amityville Horror Collection, The Legend of Zorro, Rent, Fun With Dick and Jane, The Fog, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Kung Fu Hustle, Lords of Dogtown, The Best of MGM Horror, Boogeyman, The Grudge, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary
8 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ryan Reynolds, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras feature a casually listenable commentary from producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, along with actor Ryan Reynolds discussing things like finding the titular house in Wisconsin or pointing out the which elements were based on fact. Reynolds acts as informal moderator of sorts, and he has a self-effacing and dry sense of humor, imparting such nuggets as "I always make sure I have the undead in my room during lovemaking". Form and Fuller chat up the absence of any major CG effects, even explaining away the moving magnets scene as having been done by a man inside the refrigerator.

The Source of Evil (26m:28s) is a just-better-than-average EPK piece, full of behind-the-scenes footage and background on the real story, and how closely events in the film match what actually happened. It has its fluffy, glad-handing moments, but it is not completely self-promotional. Supernatural Homicide (17m:33s) features the real-life medical examiner and former police chief who arrived on scene at the DeFeo crime scene, augmented by a psychic investigator, and all three contribute their slant on what may have happened. The medical examiner has an odd habit of appearing to always have a smirk on his face, making his discussion of the grim stuff seem a little more disturbing.

Next up is a set of eight deleted scenes (07m:46s) are available with optional commentary from Reynolds, Fuller and Form. Content is your basic "cut for pacing" material, nothing significantly earthshaking but watchable nonetheless. A branching option called On Set Peeks promises an "exclusive look on set of a scene being filmed" while viewing The Amityville Horror, and roughly ten scenes are presented in this manner. It's a little unneccessary, and actually manages to take you out of the moment.

A photo gallery, split into Crime Scene, House Interior, and Ghosts and Torture sections, as well as a ton of trailers (though none for the feature) are also included.

The disc is cut into 28 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

It's remake time, and while this new version of The Amityville Horror is not truly horrifying, it has some grimly fun jumpscares along the way. A first-rate Dolby Digital 5.1 track just heightens the experience.

Worth a look for genre fans.


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