- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

There’s something awfully familiar about the goings on in Amityville, Long Island. Yes, the new “Amityville Horror” is a slick remake of the 1979 shocker, itself spawned by a supposedly true story. But the new feature feels recycled even by remake standards.

Faucets drip blood. Pale dead girls haunt the halls. Lights flicker and burn out.

These have long since become genre cliches.

The lack of originality is a shame, since the film tells its tale with greater care than its predecessor and offers an intriguing turn by erstwhile wiseacre Ryan Reynolds (“Blade: Trinity”).

The “Van Wilder” star plays George Lutz, head of a recently fused family comprising his new bride Kathy (Melissa George) and her three children.

They’re just scraping by and looking for a house to call their own when they discover the steal of the century — a gorgeous Dutch Colonial priced well below market value.

So why won’t the real estate agent take so much as one step inside the basement?

The home’s previous owners, the DeFeos, were murdered at the hands of their son, a crime gruesomely captured in the film’s sepia-and-white opening.

Still, a steal is a steal, so the Lutzes swallow hard and move in.

All’s well for, oh, about five minutes of screen time. After taking pains to establish the family and its fractured dynamic, screenwriter Scott Kosar trots out the evil spirits with alacrity.

The DeFeo’s dead daughter begins talking to the Lutz’s young daughter. Noises above and beyond the usual house creaking start emanating from every room. And the affable George is starting to lose his patience with his bride and her brood.

Instead of unfolding George’s mental disintegration degree by tension-building degree, however, director Andrew Douglas serves up a paint-by-numbers collapse, albeit one charged with surprising menace by Mr. Reynolds.

The 1970s fashions and references are kept mercifully subdued, proving not every period piece must drown in detail. And when George and Kathy steal away from the house for a romantic dinner, they turn to a strip mall restaurant that bespeaks their humble roots.

Philip Baker Hall turns up in the final reel as a priest who checks out the home on Kathy’s behalf. The veteran character actor barely registers. His scenes merely rubber stamp the home as “evil,” which by that point is hardly a news bulletin.

Based, however loosely, on actual, relatively recent events — real murders and a family that fled its house believing it to be haunted — the original “Amityville” had a from-the-headlines immediacy and believability that made it scary. The new “Amityville Horror” — a glossy remake of a mediocre horror film itself inspired by a book — is too far removed from those realities to make us jump out of our seats.

***

WHAT: “The Amityville Horror”

RATING: R (Violence, sexual situations, profanity and teen drug use)

CREDITS: Directed by Andrew Douglas. Written by Scott Kosar, based both on the screenplay from the 1979 film by Sandor Stern and the book by Jay Anson.

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

WEB SITE: www.amityvillehorrormovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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