It's rare to discover a remake that's better than the original since, by design, they are commonly viewed as inferior products. But in the case of this more polished revision of 'The Amityville Horror (2005),' the filmmakers have done a surprisingly better job in the scare department than Stuart Rosenberg's 1979 version. Even more surprising is that the movie comes from Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes, a studio practically dedicated to furnishing older horror titles with a fresh perspective, especially when they're not needed. In this instance, a remake happens to be justified because the original is somewhat weak and boring. In other words, this 'Amityville' is better at delivering the horror about a possessed house.
As is customary practice at the independent studio, the company offers filmmakers with experience in other areas of the entertainment industry the opportunity to helm a major production. With 'Amityville,' director of television commercials Andrew Douglas makes his feature-length debut in impressive fashion, which also seems to be a customary practice with the studio. What little value can be ascertained from many of these remakes are their visuals. Admittedly, these rehashes display plenty of creativity with setting and atmosphere. The newcomers entrusted by Platinum prove to be quite stylish in this area, but their talent also seems wasted on some banal scripts that fail in offering a strong finish.
'The Amityville Horror (2005)' is really no different, with a cringe-inducing, almost embarrassing conclusion that's somehow meant to be a shocking revelation explaining the evil origins of the house. But shockingly, Douglas turns a dud into a stud, showing great control and pace behind the camera. He even makes that lame ending actually look pretty cool. With dark, spooky cinematography by Peter Lyons Collister, the scares and frights are all due to Douglas setting up each moment with tension, and startling viewers with great timing. Of course, there are more frightening films available than this remake since it tends to often invoke clichés and standard genre tactics, but the director makes effective use of them — enough at least to craft an entertaining movie.
Sporting a full beard, Ryan Reynolds as George Lutz is another aspect that surprisingly works in the movie's favor. Granted, he spends most of his time wearing contact lenses, showing off his killer beard, and walking around shirtless at three in the morning, modeling his rock-hard abs, but he suits the role of a stepfather on the brink of insanity well, revealing his more dramatic side and nearly making us forget he had anything to do with 'Blade: Trinity.' Melissa George ('30 Days of Night') does a fine job as Kathy, but she can't seem to keep up with Reynolds. As for the kids, they give the impression of simply being there as props while Chloë Moretz ('Kick-Ass') talks to ghosts, showing signs of a promising star.
Ultimately, 'The Amityville Horror' is a rare case where a remake is justified since the original wasn't all that good to begin with. With Douglas at the helm, this more polished and scarier revision provides a fun and creepy time at the movies — even if it doesn't hold up very well at the conclusion. It's far from a great genre flick, but the cheap thrills are on full display here. And whether you're a fan of the 1979 original or not, there's really little doubt that this new version is more effective at delivering what its predecessor lacked — the horror.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment bring 'The Amityville Horror (2005)' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The BD50, Region A locked disc is housed in a typical eco-case, but accompanied by a DVD-9 copy of the movie with all the special features on the opposing panel. At start up, the disc goes straight to the main menu with the standard selection of options.
Fox and MGM bring 'The Amityville Horror' to Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) full of HD goodness.
Contrast is spot-on and bright, giving the picture a snappy, crisp appearance. The transfer is highly detailed, with plenty of visible lines around the architecture of the house. We can also make out with great clarity the stitching and fabric in the 70s garb throughout, while the surrounding wilderness remains consistently sharp and well-defined. Facial complexions appear healthy and natural, with lifelike and revealing texture in the faces of actors. Black levels are marvelously rich and profound, providing the image with an appreciable depth of field. While not too intense, colors are bold and vibrant, with good variation in secondary hues, keeping with the 70s style and tone of the movie. One nitpick worth mentioning is at around the 22:27 mark when severe aliasing suddenly appears on the staircase. Aside from that drawback, the remake makes a great-looking but scary Blu-ray.
The horror movie also features an eccentric and intense DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Granted, the design involves the typical genre technique of random noises and jumps scares, but it makes effective use of the entire system to generate a creepy atmosphere.
Rears are highly active with ambient effects, creaking echoes that roam the house, and mysterious voices can be heard in the distance. Pans and directionality are convincing at setting a sinister and frightening soundfield. The low end also carries a deep, penetrating oomph to the lossless mix, making the more terrifying moments fairly shocking and exciting. Vocals are well-prioritized and clear amid the movie's most thundering scenes. Channel separation is excellent, creating a wide and spacious soundstage, and the mid-range is sharp and extensive with strong clarity and detail.
In the end, 'The Amityville Horror' offers a fun horror listen on Blu-ray.
Here's another case where the studio decided to simply give owners all the bonus material on a separate DVD disc. In fact, it's the same DVD disc as the previous release. There is both a positive and negative to this. No special features on the main disc means less compression, which many I would imagine greatly appreciate, but to watch those supplements requires switching discs. Oh, well.
Another remake from Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes is actually a justified redo which turns out surprisingly better than its inspiration. Director Andrew Douglas delivers where Stuart Rosenberg failed — at scaring audiences and building a tense atmosphere. It's a fun, creepy movie, but ultimately, there are more frightening things to watch than this revision. The Blu-ray comes with an excellent audio and video presentation, which only adds to the movie's creepiness, but the bonus material is all stored on a separate DVD disc. Overall, it's a decent package for fans, but everyone else is better off making this a rental.