One of the most controversial, and studied horrors in America History involved a house in the Long Island community of New York known as Amityville. The story resulted in a top selling book, and a movie franchise that has resulted in 9 films. The latest theatrical release was in 2005. The Michael Bay produced film directed by Andrew Douglas is now on Blu Ray DVD. While the film starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George as George and Kathy Lutz is well made, it doesn’t fully explore the supposed and controversial history of the house at 112 Ocean Avenue that has led to skepticism among many and assurances of others regarding the haunting and murders which took place.
While there is skepticism and controversy that still exists regarding the haunting experienced by the Lutz family, there is no doubt as to the murders which actually occurred at the house on November 13, 1974. The story, as presented in the movie has it that 24 year old Ronald, ‘Butch’ Defeo Jr. took a 35 caliber, lever action Marlin rifle and shot and murdered his mother, father, two sisters and two brothers. He later claimed to have heard the devil telling him to “kill them all”.
The movie starts out showing the book, Evil is Proof of God, which has been read and marked up by Butch. Butch then proceeds on a shooting spree killing his family. After the house has set vacant for approximately 1 year, the Lutz’s recognize what they think is a good deal and buy the house. While the realtor is somewhat hesitant in showing the house, she later tells them the history of the house after they inquire about the price of the house. Despite their knowledge of the history of the house, the Lutz’s decide to purchase it. Shortly after moving in the newly married couple, and three children, (Kathy Lutz was a widow from a former marriage with 3 children) the family experiences what in real life, the Lutz’s swore was the true story of a horrific 28 days prior to moving out. While some in real life speculated the family moved out due to their inability to pay the mortgage, others speculate the events as largely portrayed in the movie, along with the haunting, poltergeist, and hallucinations, actually occurred. There seems to be collaborating evidence from real life priest, Father Ralph J. Pecoraro, played as Father Callaway by Philip Baker Hall in the 2005 movie and other sources that give credibility to the story.
On the surface, the exceptional editing, terrific sound to support a horror story, and acting are decent, the story just isn’t there. There are too many jumps in the script and few answers, for that matter, the appropriate questions aren’t asked that could have provided insight into the actual story. The 2005 movie is a rather poor remake of the original 1979 film starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder. The age of the older version adds to the visual horror better than the high definition Blu-Ray. While there is a sequence in the film resembling older 35 MM home video footage outside of this, there is little to appreciate about the film and transfer. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t benefit from the high tech aspects and one of the faults in the direction is the thought that newer techniques in the transfer would give reason for a remake and rerelease. While there are some good camera angles in the film, and unique perspectives, specifically within some of the Point of View shots, it seems as if the underlying themes that made the real story, and the legend of the haunting so scary is somehow lost in translation. I don’t see the need for a remake; I certainly don’t see the benefit of it being transferred to Blu-Ray some years later.
This movie touches on aspects of evil and good, and recognizes the reality of evil. What that evil is, and where it comes from is not fully explored in the story. We do hear about a supposed Indian burial ground, a fact in dispute in the real Amityville. While there is the possibility of evil coming from Satan presented in the movie, it is never really explored outside of the viewer seeing the book being read by Butch prior to the murders and the recognition of the house needing to be blessed and ‘exorcised.’ This also too place in real life by the Lutz’s. While the mother, a non practicing Catholic, and George Lutz, a non practicing Methodist, seemed to understand the importance of religion in the attempt to ‘cleanse’ the house it wasn’t until near the end of the 28 days the family decided to explore this option.
With the history of the house, and the legends surrounding it, one would almost have to work at ruining the story, that is exactly what we have in this movie, a story that isn’t that good, and not very scary. The transfer of the Blu-Ray high definition has nothing of value, certainly nothing to justify the higher price for the DVD combo package including the Blu-Ray version and the regular DVD version. The only benefit are the special features including the Deleted Scenes, Supernatural Homicide an exploration of the real murders, The Source of Evil, a Photo Gallery and more. While the special features seem to offer an exploration into the real story, they also lack the detail one would normally hope for, even here though, there is nothing new and this material has been available for some time for those researching the history of the Amityville Horror.
While the concept behind the story is intriguing, and quite interesting because of the exploration of good and evil, the movie and DVD fall short. One may challenge that good and evil cannot exist without the other and that is certainly a worthy debate and discussion. There is little good and little offered in that debate and discussion on this DVD though. There is nothing special about the DVD and the Blu-Ray version to justify the purchase. While one may find some value in the special features, I did not. That doesn’t change the need to search though, I just happen to prefer the potential and possibility of hope and good, unfortunately, The Amityville Horror, 2005 offers neither.
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