Jan 27, 2012

SHITTY FLICKS: THE AMITYVILLE HAUNTING

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis.

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.


Holy shit.

What's that expression? Something about putting a bunch of monkeys and typewriters into a locked room and eventually they'll write Shakespeare?

The Asylum has produced approximately 65 films, and if we're sticking with the monkey metaphor, they are still at the "hurling turds" stage.

The Amityville Haunting portrays – in the ever-so-popular found footage format – the Benson family moving into 112 Ocean Avenue. Your family unit consists of Doug (the angry Marine father), Virginia (the way-too-attractive-to-have-three-kids wife/mother), Lori (the generic bitchy teen daughter who spends the entire movie texting), Tyler (the shaggy-haired middle child/our cameraman), and Melanie (the generic youngest daughter who quite ably communicates with the ghosts while simultaneously doing nothing to dispel the stereotype of the shitty child actor). They move in, last five days, test your patience, and then die. (Spoiler.)

For those of you who don't know about The Asylum, they are an ultra low-budget production and distribution house that primarily support the horror genre. They've been in the business for over ten years, and in that time, they've developed a reputation for producing "mockbusters," which are rip-offs of more popular – and generally better – mainstream films. And when I say rip-off, I don't mean that Apollo 18 is a rip-off of Paranormal Activity. I mean that in the same year Sony released Battle: Los Angeles and The Da Vinci Code, The Asylum released Battle IN Los Angeles and The Da Vinci Treasure. When Marvel Films released Thor, suddenly Almighty Thor existed.

My personal favorite? The Asylum produced a movie with this log line:  
A race of alien robots has conquered the Earth and forced humanity underground. After three hundred years of domination, a small group of humans develop a plan to defeat the mechanical invaders in the ultimate battle between man and machine. 
It is so very awesomely called Transmorphers.

There are numerous other examples, but I believe you get the point.

The Amityville Haunting was announced not too long after another, more legitimate project was announced: The Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes. What was supposed to serve as a quasi-sequel to the 2005 Ryan Reynolds-starring The Amityville Horror was put into turnaround soon after its initial announcement, I believe due to the then-financial woes of MGM. The Asylum snapped up this concept and shot their own movie – from the looks of things – in roughly a day and a half. Aping what was obviously going to be the concept, we have The Amityville Horror meets Paranormal Activity.

While it suffers from the same ailments that plague most low budget horror films (terrible acting, a terrible script, terrible pacing, and a rudimentary attempt to jazz up the execution in hopes to cover the bad odor of those three previous terrible things), I freely admit to you that during the film I became genuinely freaked out. I honestly didn’t think I would experience anything like this during the movie, but it happened. (More on that later.)

As previously mentioned, your host is unfortunately a very precocious child named Tyler. His camera-handling skills are about as adept as a dead man's ability to jazzercise. Numerous times during the film he defends his decision to film everything with the excuse, "It's for my documentary." Not a single explanation for what this documentary is about ever comes up. He also says the line, "I hate it when no one believes me!" at least three times during the movie…to himself. Over the course of five days, he never changes his clothes. Not a single time.

"I'm gonna mumble about ghosts for thirty minutes while
someone plays video games loudly in the background and my
mother makes dinner. Then I'm gonna put this on Youtube and
people are gonna care for some reason."

When the Benson family first tours the Amityville house and decide to buy it, the realtor goes outside and is immediately killed. Man, I knew the current real estate market was hurting, but I didn't think it was full-on murder!

Click me!

Tyler tells us the realtor has died of an "anerism," but still, "it's really weird!" Later, he overhears a conversation between the parents about the house's history – namely the 1974 DeFeo murders that started this whole mess in the first place – and decides the house must be haunted. While I want to commend the filmmakers for setting this film outside of the Amityville world we all know and loathe – meaning the 8 films – and having it be "the real house" in which the DeFeo murders took place, I soon quickly realized this was probably due to a legal loophole that allowed them to make this movie and not have their asses sued off by MGM/Dimension Films, who own the actual film rights. I should also mention that the house where the movie takes place is clearly nowhere near the same shape, size, or in the same location as the “real” Amityville house.

The movie goes to great lengths to establish that much horror has occurred at 112 Ocean Avenue (in the form of both a nervous realtor and a suspicious detective who later shows up and really wants to know why the hell the family would choose to live in such a terrible house). Despite this, when Tyler asks three moving men in the beginning of the film about the "Amityville house" and its legend, the three men laugh, never having heard of such a thing. The black mover even makes a joke about black people dying first in horror movies. One of the other movers responds, "You better watch out, then!"

Huh? He knows. He's the one who just made the fucking joke.

Though The Amityville Haunting desperately tries to ape the Paranormal Activity formula, it fails miserably. For instance, Paranormal Activity features escalating levels of creep and leads to a final-act death of a lead character. It's a subtle film that takes its time, and effectively so. The Amityville Haunting, however, kills six people within the first fifteen minutes (one of whom is enigmatically named Reddit), and yet you still manage to stop caring about anything happening in the film almost immediately. 

Many of the events are excruciatingly dull, and those that aren't manage to be interesting only because of the pedestrian manner in which they are executed. At no point do the ghosts actually look like ghosts, but rather bored actors in thrift store suits with a splash of blood across their faces. In fact, the one ghost that Melanie interacts with the entire movie – whose name alternates between John Matthews and John Matthew – is just some random kid. Watch as he sits on the floor, or at the table, and wears very modern clothes. No blood—not even white powder slapped across his face to make him appear the least bit unnatural. He's just...some kid.

Realtor, this is one of my annoying children.
And that's my other annoying child, but in boy form.

Based on how the characters interact, I can only assume a very loose script was used, allowing actors to bounce dialogue off each other and improvise in the moment—and by this I mean they randomly speak over each other's lines, so most of the dialogue never sounds genuine.

For instance:

Mother: (pointing out son who is filming) Don't mind him, he thinks he is the next Steven Spielberg. He films everything.

Realtor: Oh, don't we all?

Huh?

My personal favorite line exchange comes during the second act of the film, when the father discovers his teen daughter, Lori, has been sneaking out late at night to see a boy from the neighborhood. Sitting at the table with a police officer, this masterful wordplay ensues:

Father: My daughter has been sneaking out with...this kid.

Cop: I bet it was that kid!

- "It was that kid, right?"
- "It was that kid!"
- "That fucking kid!"
- "That...fucking...kid."

At one point in the movie, Tyler has Melanie ask the ghost what it wants. The ghost then tells Melanie, who tells her brother, "he wants you, Mommy, and Daddy to leave, and he wants me to stay here forever."

Ouch. Quite a burn for Lori, who is apparently destined for neither leaving the house, nor staying. Have you ever tried being nowhere? It's really, really hard.

As you can imagine, the scary events in the house escalate, leading to a terrifying conclusion. Now see, I said "you can imagine" because you'd have to, as that doesn't actually happen here. Things remain painfully dull up until the last second, in which each family member is murdered in completely unimaginative (and off-screen) ways.

The movie ends with close-ups of "coroner's investigation reports" for each family member killed. An official cause of death for one of the family members reads: heart and lung “separtion."

Good one.

I really wanted to give The Asylum the benefit of the doubt when it came to this movie. First of all, at the end of the day, they manage to make movies. That's something most of us wish we could do, and for those of us that have, we know it's not a terribly easy thing to accomplish. Not to mention that The Asylum's usual budgets are never that big for their productions, which doesn't make things easier for them. Regardless, they sometimes manage to attract people worth a damn (Lance Henriksen, for instance). I was hoping that the ability for them to spend even less on a movie by making a found footage flick would, in turn, allow them to focus more on the script and telling a good story. Sadly, I was wrong. Not only is the movie incompetently made in almost every general sense, I am really starting to feel like we’re all being had—every single one of us that goes out of our way to see one of their movies. I feel contempt from these filmmakers. I feel like they are laughing at us all – in some Andy Kauffman-esque way – as we struggle to remain invested in their work. These people clearly have money (when compared to me, anyway), and as previously mentioned, are capable of attracting people I actually want to see in movies. Why won’t they try? Why won’t they attempt to make something that’s good? Just by odds alone, that should have happened by now.

Oh, right. The thing I mentioned earlier that completely freaked me out? During the movie, I went into the other room and one of my flameless LED candles had turned on by itself!

How did it DO that??

Terrible.


8 comments:

  1. In this movie (The Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes), I would like to know what happen to the youngest daughter at the end of the movie. Because the youngest daughter was the only surviving member of the Benson family, although at the end of the movie it showed the rest of the deceased family members coroner’s investigation report, which was ruled that their deaths were all homicides. But never mention the where about of the youngest daughter or what happened to her.

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  2. This movie made me laugh my ass off. A few friends of mine watched it and believed every minute of it. To anyone with a brain, the actual Amityville home has not only changed its structure, but address as well. The same people have lived there for years and never had a single 'paranormal' experience. Previous Anonymous person, the youngest daughter went and had milk and cookies with the bald casting director following the last scene. Then she took a nap and went home to play Barbies.

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  3. Suck monkey ass movie... Lol they all need acting lessons..Waste of time....ughh

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  4. I seriously would like to know how these film companies get away with publishing "what you are about to see is actual footage the police recovered after investigating" when the reality of the situation is that the storey itself isn't even a real incident that took place! How do they get away with it without being sued in some way shape or form makes absolutely no sense to me at all especially in america where people sue eachother everyday for things as simple as "parking on their side of the driveway". Like seriously someone please explain to me how they get away with it?

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  5. I agree with the ghost not looking like actual ghosts at
    all. They pretty much had blood on the defeo guy though,
    but it didn't make sense because he was never killed. But
    the little boy should've had blood, or maybe glowing eyes
    considering he was deceased.

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  6. what a pile of damn crap! all though the part when they show the teenagers tits was nice!

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  7. hey can you tell me what happened to the group of teenagers? I mean just like that, that's just their roles in the movie to have sex and die?? They didn't have revenge or something?? thanks didn't get to finish the movie.

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  8. What happened to the oldest sister? I know that she died but for her sister to not even mention her is so creepy .. i just don't know

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