Review: Amityville: The Awakening

The long-suffering Dimension sequel Amityville: The Awakening showed up online last week thanks to the fine folks at Google. I read that it was getting a limited theatrical release on Oct 27, but given the history of this movie I didn’t want to take any chances. So last night I fired up my iPad and watched it. The history of this movie is well documented so I won’t rehash it here. Suffice it to say that after five long years waiting I was thrilled to finally see it even if it was on my iPad, which makes the fact that it was so mediocre a bit disappointing.

AmityvilleBellaPoster

I won’t spoil anything in case you plan to watch it, which if you found my blog you probably are. The plot is fairly basic; widowed mother Joan Walker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) moves her three children into the infamous Amityville house. Joan is completely focused on nursing her son Jimmy (Cameron Monaghan) back to health following a tragic accident and leaves his twin Belle (Bella Thorne) and her little sister Juliet (McKenna Grace) to fend for themselves. Belle has no idea about the history of the house until her first day of school when the other kids make it clear that something weird is going on. Horny nerd Terrance (Thomas Mann) takes on the task of schooling Bella in all things Amityville while making not-so-subtle attempts to get into her pants. He introduces Belle to quirky Marissa (Taylor Spreitler) who tags along to help Bella sort out the odd things going on at home.

AmityvilleSiblings

From there the usual haunted house tropes play out. Some of them are creepy. Some are just boring. Jodie the demonic pig makes a brief appearance but not in the way you’d hope. The scares are low key, which I appreciated. Lots of shadows and noises to begin with. There are a few jump scares, but they aren’t so grievous that they made me angry like the ones in the shameful 2005 remake. And they probably would have done a better job creating a sense of creeping dread if the musical score had not been so horrendous.

Jodie1

There are some real talents in this cast. I’ve always loved Jennifer Jason Leigh, and it was nice to see her play such a contrasting role than the one we just saw in Twin Peaks: The Return. I haven’t seen anything Bella Thorne has done before but she was decent as the angsty sexy goth girl. She could have gone so over the top with it and instead played it pretty close to how teenagers really act in 2017. Kurtwood Smith seemed a bit out of sorts as Jimmy’s doctor but did the best he could with his role. Easily the best thing about this movie is Cameron Monaghan. He has very little to do for the first half of the movie, his scenes taking place entirely in bed without any dialog, and still he managed to creep me the hell out.

I can’t wrap this up this without mentioning the house. It has long been a gripe of mine that Amityville movies rarely get the house right. This movie nailed it. It feels like we’re back on the 1979 set again. Sure, the interiors are a little different, but still very close. The only reminder that it wasn’t the real house was the constant use of old news footage showing the real 112 Ocean Avenue. Points given for realism but it was a bit jarring.

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If I had to rate this movie I’d give it a C. I enjoyed it, and if it makes its way to theaters next week I will probably see it again. An Amityville movie on the big screen is a bit of a novelty at this point. Embracing the Amityville phenomenon and hype was refreshing. I got a kick of out the kids watching the 1979 film in the living room of the “actual house” because that’s something I would totally do given the chance. I felt Franck Khalfoun’s love for the franchise in every frame, but it felt rushed and incomplete. Opening a film about Amityville with the DeFeo murders has been done before. Surely there was another way to remind us it happened. Awakening tries to do something interesting with the mythology but never really fleshes it out. It makes me wonder what the The Lost Tapes would have been like. Maybe we’ll get to see that movie someday.

Amityville: The Awakening will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 14. I can’t help but think that date was not a coincidence.

 

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