Comfortable and Furious

The Amityville Horror (2005)

I am not kidding, dear readers — the black woman three rows ahead of me never stopped talking. At times an incomprehensible mutter, while others a sassy lecture, this woman continued to speak even while inhaling popcorn by the greedy handful. In all fairness, the medium-size crowd was more like the Jeffrey Dahmer sentencing hearing than a polite movie audience, but this woman was an unusual treat because she provided an unending commentary track for what was otherwise an unendurable movie.

2005’s version of The Amityville Horror is surely the most unnecessary remake since last year’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which itself was the most pointless revisiting since Sidney Lumet’s excruciating and uncalled for Gloria. But director Andrew Douglas has seen fit to be even less faithful to the official lie, which asked us to believe that in the 1970’s, the Lutz family left their New York home after a month of bloody walls, flies, and curious voices. Here, George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds) is even more hysterical than James Brolin, as he kills the family dog with an axe and chases the kiddies around with a shotgun. At one point, I even thought the old guy would actually kill his entire family. No guesses as to whether or not he should have.

We also get more background, as we learn that the voices stem from the ghost of a long dead religious figure, who took unsuspecting Indians into his home and tortured them to death. George even discovers the hidden chamber where these experiments took place. The good reverend also re-slits his throat for George, to prove that he means business about this “evil-never-dies” thing. There are also more ghosts about, as the young Lutz daughter hangs out with the dead body of Jodie Defeo, who was a victim of the original bloodbath that started this mess. She’s curiously upbeat, despite being a rare shade of blue and having a bullet hole in her head. She has also given Chelsea her one-eyed doll and asks her to jump off the roof in order to see her own father, who died of some unknown disease years earlier.

Jodie’s finest hour comes when the Lutz children get a babysitter, Lisa, played with whorish gusto by Rachel Nichols. I was hoping she’d fellate young Billy (played by the improbably named Jesse James), but instead she was just a tease. But on a dare, Lisa walks into Chelsea’s scary closet, is locked in with Jodie, and pounds her knuckles to a bloody pulp trying to get out. The last we see of her is on a stretcher as the authorities haul away her shivering, incoherent heap. It was a great little sequence, one that brought the movie slightly above its trashy origins to become even trashier. If there’s a sequel, I have no doubt that Lisa will be the killer (revenge on Billy, perhaps?) The scene was balanced by the Lutz couple having a fine dinner at a strip mall where — no lie — they are eating at an establishment called “Italian Restaurant.” Fine, only I found that funny.

As expected, Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) is a dimwitted slut in her own right, not understanding why her husband has turned on a dime and suddenly believes in murderous retribution. She finally accepts the idea of demonic possession, but only after Father Callaway (Philip Baker Hall!) is attacked by flies and runs away in a panic. And why is George spending all that time down at the boathouse? And why has he taken his things and moved to the basement? For my money, I’d like to believe that the story is a warning to all stepfathers that if you take on another man’s children, you’ll eventually want to slaughter the little devils. Played straight, the movie isn’t scary and certainly not suspenseful, but as an allegory, it makes much more sense. The new husband and father is happy at first, but he can sense the resentment on the part of his stepchildren and he even overhears his wife tell her children that it’s okay to never fully accept George as a dad. He’ll never equal the dead guy, and Kathy even agrees that she’ll always love her first husband more! Hell, what other choice for George is there but to kill?

Think of The Shining and how it’s clearly meant as an exploration of patriarchy’s last stand against feminization and gender equality. Faced with a loss of potency and control, the male species attacks, wounds, and kills in order to feel whole again. Jack, like George, also has a fondness for the axe. Only here, George would rather chop endless cords of wood. But that wood is just a temporary substitute until he moves on to the true focus of his rage. After all, George runs his own construction business, but he is clearly failing as we never see him on the job or even so much as pounding a nail. And as we know, when a man can’t cut it at work, he takes it out on the “old sperm bank upstairs,” to use another Mr. Torrance phrase. Hollywood may be out of touch with quite a bit, but they understand the essential truth about American men — they don’t really want to get married, they loathe children, and if they ever start to feel confined or emasculated, they will lie, cheat, and eventually hack their loved ones to pieces. It’s as inevitable as the tide, my friends.

Oh, and this fiasco was produced by Michael Bay — just in case you didn’t have sufficient reason to hate the thing.



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