This is the film that made me love horror films. “The Amityville Horror” hits all of the right notes for a supernatural horror film. Terrifying imagery, jump scares, a mystery that keeps you on edge, the worst babysitter ever, creepy little kids, figures lurking around corners, and more! It is the complete package and the best part may be its bold opening. Many horror films ease into the terror or even try to lure us into a false sense of security. This film opens with the graphic homicide of a family and little explanation. What follows are 90 compelling minutes with frequent moments so tense that your stomach will be twisted in knots. I have found that many “scary movies” are actually intense thrillers with a few scary images (“The Sixth Sense,” “The Uninvited”) but the scary moments in this film run from start to finish. They keep us on edge so that we never know what may pop out next. While there are plenty of jump scares, the unknown evil at the core of this story is what makes it truly scary. Homeowners will wonder if their house may have a tragic history, parents will worry about who an imaginary friend could actually be, and we will all be filled with a sense of dread during moments like the dog scene. The film was criticized for showing too much horror instead of implying what is happening but sometimes we need to see the scary sights instead of imagining them. Ryan Reynolds does a great job of creating two separate personas but making them similar enough that we believe that he possesses both. Melissa George drives the emotional aspects of the film and Chloë Grace Moretz successfully creeps us out as Chelsea. The role of Father Callaway is downplayed from the original film but I actually think that it benefits the story by making it one piece of the puzzle instead of the main focus. Philip Baker Hall is great in this role. My largest complaint is the ending. It seems like a cop out instead of a well thought out resolution but it certainly doesn’t ruin the film (like the jump scare at the end of “The Woman in Black”). My love for “The Amityville Horror” is part nostalgia looking back on myself as a budding film buff at the impressionable age of 20 (who went to the theater twice in 3 days to engulf myself in this bloody bath of horror), but revisiting this film in my 30’s has let me see that there is a lot of quality in this take-your-breath-away chiller.
[Pictured: The scenes in the closet will completely freak you out]