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:: The Amityville Horror

In 1974, the township of Amityville, Long Island was shaken by one of history’s most horrifying crimes. Ronald DeFeo Jnr simply awoke one night, picked up a rifle and systematically murdered his entire family as they slept peacefully in their beds. He claimed he was driven by ‘voices’ in his house, an evil presence he was powerless to resist.

A year later, George (Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) bought the Dutch Colonial mansion that had driven DeFeo mad. They hoped it would be a fresh start for their young family, the life they’d always dreamed of. Soon after moving in, they began to experience bizarre visions and mysterious occurrences. Kathy’s daughter, Chelsea, claims she can speak to the little girl who was murdered in her bedroom and George begins to lose touch with reality.

Originally based in fact, then told in Jay Anson’s novel of 1977, played out on the big screen in 1979, now remade as a big budget film in 2005, The Amityville Horror is one of those scary stories that loses nothing for being told a hundred times around a campfire. One of the most compelling things about this story is that it is based on actual events, though cynics might wonder just how much the narrative has changed with each telling.

This latest version is a psychological thriller with some bleeding walls and gruesome ghosts thrown in for fun. It is well acted, Ryan Reynolds proving he can play the straight guy and Australian actress Melissa George, unrecognisable from her wooden Home and Away days. She has good screen chemistry with the children. Fifteen-year-old Jesse James (the Butterfly Effect) playing her son Billy, and eight-year-old Chloe Moretz playing her spooky daughter Chelsea, are particularly likable.

Although entertaining, Amityville disappoints by using the same horror tricks we’ve seen in films for the last five years and allowing things to leap out of the shadows at predictable moments. The house is haunted in the Hollywood way, that movies have taught us to expect, rather than being truthful and sinister. The Amityville Horror is a typical classic horror movie…but should it be?