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May 09, 2006

Film Review: Amityville - A Horror in Any Year

Today's Film Review courtesy of English-blog contributor Allison R.

*Warning: Article may contain spoilers!

The Thriller That Keeps You Guessing

The Amityville Horror, a film directed by Andrew Douglas, was released in 2005 starring Ryan Reynolds. A combination of special effects, suspense, and a well written story line help to make this film an instant success in the cinemas. If its mystery and on the edge of your seat suspense that the viewer craves, then this is the film to see. After seeing this film once viewers everywhere will be begging for more! The film is based on a true story of a family murdered during their sleep by a brother/son, Ronnie DeFeo, who goes insane from spirits living in the house. These spirits take control of the boy and convince him to commit the murders. The film then moves on to show a family, a year later, move into the house and experience all the bizarre incidents that occur. The main character, George Lutz, undergoes psychological changes and in the process is possessed by the same spirits that took over Ronnie . . .

. . . Most of the film takes the viewers through the different incidents that occurred to the family, which also makes viewers try to guess the outcome of the plot. The first time I saw this film, I thought I had all the details figured out to solve the ending of the movie. So without ruining the end all I will say is that the ending will leave you surprised, it did me! I definitely recommend this movie as a good thriller to sit in the dark with a group of friends and have a good scare. I think the viewers will be pleased with the acting, plot, and organization of this film. No one will go home disappointed with the surprising ending of The Amityville Horror.

The phrase “Based on a True Story” tends to be a very misleading line at times. Not so much in the sense that the director is making up the facts that he delivers to his audience, but in the sense that if two versions are created about the same event one would assume the story lines would be similar. This is not the case with the two versions of The Amityville Horror incident. Even though both of these films tell the same story, it appears that the directors had different ideas when retelling this horrific story. The two films eventually get across to the viewer the same idea, but how that point is arrived at is expressed in two different versions

These two films are both related to the same true story about a mother, father, and their four children being murdered in their sleep on November 13, 1974. The motive of the murders is unknown, but the only survivor was the eldest son who later was convicted of committing the murders. The movies are based on the family that moved into the house a year after the terrible incidents that occurred in the house. Both movies use the same house structure and main character’s names, Kathy and George. The only names that were changed were their children. In the 1979 version, directed by Stuart Rosenberg, the little girl who sees the ghost of Jody, the girl killed in the tragedy, was named Amy. In the 2005 version, directed by Andrew Douglas, the little girl’s name was Chelsea.

Some other similarities in both films are that Kathy’s first husband passes away and George remarries her making him the stepfather. The main character George undergoes the same psychological changes and is affected by a supernatural spirit living in the house which causes him to lose control of himself. This occurs in both films and it all starts out by George feeling cold, looking tired, sick, and weary. Then he starts hearing voices in the house saying, “Kill them,” which leads him to develop a temper problem with his family. Kathy is the strong character who tries to help George overcome the psychological problems that he is facing.

Kathy and George’s youngest daughter is visited by Jody who tells the little girl information about what happened to her and her family. Jody tells the little girl to do certain tasks like to go down to their boat house in the middle of the night, climb to the top of the house and jump off so the little girl could see her daddy, and to tell George that Jody does not like him. Jody has a major influence on the little girl in both films and this causes the little girl to act against her mother’s wishes and commands.

In both films, a priest comes to the house to bless it because Kathy and George believe prayer will rid the house of any demons. The difference in this scene in the two films is that the priest comes voluntary in the 1979 version, where the priest is called upon in the 2005 version.

Another similarity in these films is what is behind the wall in the basement. In both films, the spirit of a man, Jeremiah Ketchem, haunts the house and possesses George. He tortured and murdered Native Americans in this chamber. Later, he killed himself so that his spirit could live on and possess others, like George, to continue his work.

Although these films are based on the same true story, they have some obvious differences that have changed the story line. The 1979 version of the film does not get into as much detail as the 2005 version. In the beginning of both films, Kathy and George are shown buying the house. This similarity differs slightly because in the 1979 version the couple is already aware of the murders that took place in their house, but in the 2005 version they learn of the tragedy after they make the decision to buy the house. Andrew Douglas focuses more on the family moving into the house and lets the viewers get to know Kathy, George, and the kids more as well. Stuart Rosenberg did not choose to express these details in his film; perhaps he found these details unnecessary.

In the 1979 version, Kathy’s brother is getting married. As a result of this a babysitter is called to watch the children. Kathy’s brother is not even mentioned in the 2005 version, but the films share the fact that a babysitter comes to the house and is spooked when shut in a closet due to a dare. The babysitter is called to watch the kids because Kathy and George go out for a nice dinner together. In the 1979 film, they come home from the wedding to hear the babysitter crying in the closet, but in the 2005 film they arrive home to an ambulance taking the babysitter away on a stretcher in a state of shock and fear.

Kathy’s Aunt Helena, a nun, also is shown in the 1979 film. She comes for a visit and as soon as she enters the house she feels an evil presence. A feeling of sickness overwhelms the aunt and she leaves the house immediately without giving Kathy a reason. At the wedding, Kathy reunites with her aunt and is informed of why her aunt left in such a hurry.

Stuart Rosenberg has the detective, who was at the scene of the murders, following Kathy and George around when all the unusual happenings started to occur. Andrew Douglas had no such character in his film nor did he have any of George’s co-workers concerned about his condition. Rosenberg showed Jeff and Carolyn, George’s co-worker and his wife, who attempt helping George and Kathy through all their problems.

Father Delaney, a character in the 1979 film, is shown praying in the church so fiercely that he starts to scream his prayers. The intenseness of his praying causes a few statues in the church to crumble and in the end the priest goes blind from his actions. The priest in the 2005 version has a smaller role and is really only seen when he blesses the house for Kathy and George.

One of the biggest differences in The Amityville Horror films is the endings. In the 1979 version, George starts out like he is going to kill his family. He chases them through the house with an ax until they hide from him in the bathroom. A locked door does not stop him from breaking down the door with his ax. Kathy then manages to get him to focus on escaping the house, which has blood seeping throughout it and shaking like an earthquake. They manage to get out and drive away in their van. It ends with informing the viewers that they never returned to claim the house or their possessions.

In the 2005 version, George attempts to kill his family, but does not get stopped by Kathy. George chases his family outside onto the roof where they climb down and jump to the ground for safety. George has an ax and Kathy has a gun that she points at George to try to make him realize what is going on at the moment. She knocks him down and he tells her to kill him because he knows he can not be stopped. She knocks him out again and drags him to the boathouse where he is tied up and put on the boat. They drive away on the boat and George wakes up to his normal self. The film ends with the viewers being informed with the same information that is stated in the first film.

Just because a film is a remake does not mean that the films are going to be exact copies, but with different actors and directors. A lot can be changed in two films that make them the same, but different in many ways. The Amityville Horror films, in the end, have the same plot and are both based on true stories. The story lines have changed to add a little twist to a classic in order to make a film a more modern version. Putting differences and similarities aside, both films give the viewer the same information just in different perspectives.

~Allison R.

Works Cited

The Amityville Horror. Stuart Rosenberg. James Brolin, Margot Kidder, and Rod Steiger. AIP/Professional Films Inc. /Cinema 77, 1979

The Amityville Horror. Andrew Douglas. Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George. Dimension Films/MGM Pictures, 2005

[Note: Part of this review has been previously published HERE]

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To read additional English-Blog entries on the subject of Film, please click HERE.

Posted by lhobbs at May 9, 2006 12:33 AM

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