The original "Amityville Horror"bored critics in 1979, but created a box office bonanza and spawned sevensequels.
Now the studios have commissioned a straight-ahead remake.After all, why go to the bother of writing new stories, or for that matter,coming up with material for another sequel? This way no one needs to thinkof anything at all.
Written by Scott Kosar (the 2003 "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"remake), the new "Amityville Horror" begins in 1974 with a flashbackto the catalyst murders, steeped in darkness and lit by intermittent, flickeringflashes of lightning.
A year later, the Lutz family moves into the creepy housewith the big eye-like windows. George (RyanReynolds) is the second husband of Kathy (MelissaGeorge), who has three children from a previous marriage.
George almost immediately begins hearing voices and goingcrazy, though Reynolds is too inept an actor to convey psychosis withouthelp; he employs special drops and/or contact lenses to make his eyes lookscary.
Ghosts occasionally flit by or materialize, "Grudge"-like,with stringy hair and bulging eyes. When Kathy enlists the aid of a priest(Philip Baker Hall), he's attacked by a swarm of digital flies and runsfor his life. Hall delivers perhaps the movie's best line: "Your housefrightens me, Mrs. Lutz."
The new "Amityville" owes a great deal to both"TheExorcist" and "The Shining" butlacks both Friedkin's attention to detail and Kubrick's supreme patience.Making his feature directorial debut, Andrew Douglas rushes through everything,building a monotonous, anxious hum without mixing it up or giving the audiencea break.
Still, "The Amityville Horror" has its moments.When the youngest boy (Jimmy Bennett) makes a late night bathroom visit,Douglas makes it known that he is about to scare us. But during this onesequence he takes his time, letting the tingles and prickles build foran extra moment before cutting loose.
And Rachel Nichols has a star-making turn as the world'sbest/worst babysitter. Slinking around like a hippie sex kitten, she stretchesand arches and purrs while frightening the children with murder stories."I suck at babysitting," she muses, as an afterthought.
Alas, the film's final third sinks into horror techniquesso tired that even the later, straight-to-video "Amityville"sequels would have edited them out. How many times do the filmmakers expectthe "it-was-only-a-nightmare" thing to work, anyway?
Audiences will be better off staying home with MGM/UA'snew DVD box set "The Amityville Horror Special Edition." It includesthe first three films, plus a fourth bonus disc, "Amityville Confidential."