Remakes. Oh dear. I have big issues with remakes of classic horror titles, but now and again a remake is necessary. Amityville is a good example of a franchise that had loooooong since run out of steam. The original 1979 film had Margot Kidder and James Brolin being fantastic in it, but that was followed up with a string of increasingly poor sequels, some of which are downright painful to watch (and believe me, I have sat through enough of them). The original impact of that first film had been diminished to a terrific extent, and if it was going to do anything worthwhile again it needed a makeover.
Directed by Andrew Douglas, this 2005 remake stars Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, and there are times I would have rather been watching one of the nineties video sequels. It is a pedestrian retread of the original at best, and an empty mish-mash of quick cuts and post production tricks at worst. The cast is well chosen and do a good job with a script that just joins the dots, and aside from adding some nice character arcs, doesn't do a great deal with the story itself.
You know the tale. A young family move into a house that had been the site of a multiple murder, and weird things start to happen around the creepy house, ending up in a bloodbath once again. The Amityville house has been recreated really well, but there's nothing of the original's tension on offer here. Scares this time around seem to be centred around sound effects and well-worn scare tactics. There is little of the original film's demented, manic atmosphere, and even the denoument seems to go off like a wet sparkler.
This is what gets me about remakes. Even people that are not familiar with the original source material are going to know what to expect. That takes all the scares out of the piece, and in a film like this, it is new scares that are needed. These are few and far between. The film is shot really well, with a great eye for detail and shot composition, but these only serve to highlight the flaws in what is ultimately a very dull remake.
There are some nicely handled effects shots, but the original was never about effects, and that was its power. Tension and suspense are replaced here with some nifty special effects and some tense music cues, but nothing that is really going to make you leave the light on.