Hell House:
A Review of The Amityville Horror Remake

by Tony Phillips

A Long Island address — excepting beachy enclaves Montauk, Fire Island and the Hamptons — has always been problematic. But when bargain-hunters George and Kathy Lutz stumble onto 112 Ocean Avenue, their “deal of a lifetime” turns them into inadvertent ghost-hunters in the bargain. Anyone with a penchant for The Exorcist and eyeliner will probably remember the original book — written by this crafty couple’s lawyer in real estate’s most ingenious renege on record — and the subsequent film, with its immortal window flies and booming “GET TOUT!” voices, not to mention bearded, pre-Babs James Brolin and throaty, pre-shrubbery Margot Kidder. Well Goths, brace yourself for their replacement killers: Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, who camp it up almost immediately, promising each other, “We’ll make sacrifices, huge sacrifices,” on the porch of their new, not-so humble abode that’s just a tad out of their price range. “We’ll be eating drywall for a year,” Reynolds frets. Um, if that’s what the scenery is made from, then yeah!

This family — not so much blended as remixed — is headed by step daddy George: a hunky contractor who eschews shirts and pads around his haunted house barefoot in PJ bottoms yanked just a hair above the pubic line. This isn’t a complaint, mind you. Reynolds — the most fantastic abs makeover since Janet Jackson — is the formerly charming star of guilty pleasures like Van Wilder, but has obviously incorporated the personality blaster into his workout circuit. Then there’s young mom Kathy, her strangely Oedipal oldest who is quite possibly older than she, a second son who appears to have wandered over from a cereal commercial and a daughter who puts Pollyanna to shame with almost immediate hijinxs on their steeply raked Dutch Colonial roof.

While Martha Stewart would have whipped this place into shape in a week, The Lutz take 28 days to flee after George almost makes a Pina Coloda of Kathy's head with his speedboat motor. Some blame lies with uber-producers Ted Field and Michael Bay and their protégés Brad Fuller and Andrew Form. The ironically named Fuller/Form team — also responsible for last year’s quite good Texas Chainsaw remake — pump-up everything while liberally borrowing phrases from films as diverse as Touch of Evil and Poltergeist. A grisly, 1974 crime scene montage at the house, the year before George and Kathy buy, is all slam-cuts and flashbulb noise, suggesting the ideal buyer wasn’t a suburban couple moving on up, but rather John Waters’ superstar Divine as a charming locale for her "red hot camera sessions." It’s also as close to divine as this pastiche gets.