The 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror was a somewhat surprising commercial hit. Despite grossing over $100 million worldwide, the modestly budgeted fright flick didn’t trigger a rebirth of the franchise. Watching the film on the newly released two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, it isn’t hard to see why. There are a handful of effectively creepy moments and a nice change of pace turn from Ryan Reynolds. Otherwise there aren’t many reasons to recommend this.
The story is painfully simple, which is part of the problem. Set in 1975, the Lutz family has moved into a very old house in Amityville, New York. The year before, the same house was the scene of a gruesome murder spree. The previous owner went crazy and killed his family. Spooked but undeterred, the Lutzes purchased the house knowing full well of the horror that had transpired. Within less than a month the haunted house takes demonic possession of George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds), transforming him into a deranged psycho. There isn’t much more to it.
Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) is slow to realize her husband is losing it. The whole situation is more apparent to the three Lutz children, who pick up on the changes more quickly. The once amiable George becomes more menacing and unpredictable in his behavior towards them. Chelsea (Kick-Ass‘s Chloe Moretz), the youngest Lutz child, has an imaginary friend named Jody, who happens to have been one of the murder victims.
Not a lot happens to build suspense, causing the 89 minutes to drag more than a little. The filmmakers seemed to bank on creating an increasingly chilling atmosphere. At least they got a very effective performance out of Reynolds, who makes a very believable nice-guy-turned-madman. Philip Baker Hall phones in a supporting turn as a priest called upon to help deal with the pesky spirits haunting the house.
The Amityville Horror looks very good on Blu-ray, as it should considering how relatively recently the movie was made. The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is razor sharp. The movie features mostly nighttime scenes, but detail is never sacrificed no matter how dark. Black levels are very solid. The color palette overall is fairly limited throughout, but the earthy browns and musty yellows are well represented. I didn’t detect any visual artifacts of any kind.
The soundtrack is presented in lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. It sounds excellent, with plenty of strong, thumping bass to accentuate the scares. It would help if the movie were more genuinely frightening, but the audio can’t be faulted. Lots of subtle effects are clearly audible in the surround speakers, creating a richly creepy atmosphere. Dialogue is well centered and always intelligible, even during the loudest, rain-drenched scenes.
There are no special features included on the Blu-ray. For those wanting more, this two-disc combo pack includes the standard DVD as well. Several supplemental features can be found on that disc. The commentary track features the film’s producers with star Ryan Reynolds. This is a relatively dry, ho-hum track, with discussion centering more on the nuts and bolts of the filmmaking process than the creative side of things. A number of deleted scenes, with optional audio commentary from the same participants, don’t reveal much of interest. A few relatively superficial featurettes elaborate on the fact and fiction behind the story’s origins.
The 2005 version of The Amityville Horror is no classic, but then again neither was the leaden 1979 original. If anything, the more recent version is more entertaining. Ryan Reynolds does a respectable job as a psycho. Melissa George looks good in tight-fitting 1970s outfits (though unfortunately, despite the R rating, never disrobes). If anything, this should be a rental rather than a purchase.