Dec 26, 2019


Oh, the Amityville Horror series. How many of you are there now? Eleven? Twelve? Way more if we count all those bogus distributors legally exploiting the “Amityville” name?

And how many of you are actually “good”?

Counting the 1976 original…not a one. And Amityville: The Awakening definitely isn’t going to change that.

Amityville: The Awakening began life way back in 2011 as Amityville: The Lost Tapes, a Paranormal Activity-ish take on the most marquee-famous haunted house horror series there is. This version ultimately didn’t come together and was heavily revised; ditching the script and concept in favor of something more traditional, Maniac remake director Franck Khalfoun pretty much started from scratch. What resulted was something definitely traditional — in fact, too traditional — resulting in a very standard haunted house chiller.

Khalfoun gets absolute credit for at least introducing a novel concept into the Amtityville mythos — even if it’s a riff on the Australia ‘70s chiller Patrick — in the form of a comatose member of the family who may or may not be invaded by the evil spirits of 112 Ocean Avenue. Khalfoun also attempts to softly “reboot” the Amityville name by acknowledging the existence of The Amityville Horror franchise as simply that — DVDs for a handful of the original films (and the remake, which “sucks”) make cameos — and this feels clever and necessary for about two seconds until you realize that Amityville: The Awakening is going to hit all the same beats those previous films did, anyway, right down to how the original and the remake conclude.

Four years ago, the concept of Blumhouse and Jennifer Jason Leigh collaborating on a micro-budget take on The Amityville Horror would have been a cause for excitement, but the finished product lacks the ingenuity and eye for creative talent that Blumhouse has brought to previous productions. And poor Jennifer Jason Leigh is totally wasted in the “mom” role (and you can tell she’s not into it), while real lead Bella Thorne’s atrocious acting only moderately improves when she’s walking around her creepy old house with no pants on, or doing her biology homework with no pants on, or putting her baby sister to bed with no pants on. (And for the nth time in movies like this, her character is a pariah at school and referred to as “freaky girl,” even though Thorne is absolutely gorgeous.)

Moments meant to spur horror are instead hilariously over the top and only effective in causing bursts of laughter — the film gets its creepiest mileage by having Cameron Monaghan, who plays the comatose veggie, lay in a hospital bed with his creepy unblinking eyes wide open and staring. Following all the DOA jump scares, snippets of profanity-spewing demons, and wondering what on earth Kurtwood Smith is doing here, you, too, will want to put this Amityville house back on the market as soon as possible.

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