Remakes. Re-imaginings, reboots, reduxes. The first decade of this shiny new millennium is the decade of the remake. With the breakthroughs in technology, the evolution (or devolution) of aesthetic, and the always-transforming sentiments of our present day populace, the film industry has taken it upon itself to remake old movies, both individual films as well as franchises to suit the fickle tastes of the masses. Now, this is by no means a new idea, with remakes stretching as far back as there have been original films to remake. But in no time in this medium’s short history has there ever been a more vicious and voracious re-haul of our world’s entire stock of original ideas. Some people in the world of movies are overjoyed at this prospect of reliving the joy they felt when they saw the original film in a whole new light. Others frown upon the idea of fiddling with cinema’s history, insisting on moving on and creating new ideas for the new millennium. I am torn on the issue, myself. I’m sure you’ve seen a bushel or more of remakes on this site reviewed by yours truly, and personally I have no vendetta against the remake. Often times, a remake of a classic film can at the very least inspire someone to watch the original, and at the very most it can be a rewarding movie in its own right. Unfortunately, remakes do have a nasty reputation for being mostly inferior to the their original counterparts. And not only that, but they also have a propensity for unnecessarily lauding the original film, creating a false legend of quality under the generalized assumption that a studio would only remake a good movie. For example, I can’t think of one person who seriously considered Inglorious Bastards (aka That Damn Armored Train) was anything other than a throw-away WWII movie by Enzo Castellari from the late 70’s that really had very little to do with the Second World War and more to do with yelling and shooting at things. But with Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming remake starring Brad Pitt coming soon to theaters, everyone cites it as a classic all of a sudden. I watched it, folks. It’s no classic. A good movie if you like Spaghetti westerns set in occupied France, but not good enough for these young impressionable film hipsters out there to be calling it “uncredited genius”. So remakes in that respect can be a double-edged blade. And, for you keeping up with this kind of thing, the hardest hit genre of this recent remake rampage (I’m absolutely all about alliteration!) has to be the horror genre. All the classics in the genre are being remade with ferocious speed (Friday the 13’th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Omen). Last year I would not be surprised to find that more remakes came out last year than actual original horror movies. And the major culprit for this complete genre makeover is the guy you would least expect. Yes, for those who know, my arch-nemesis Michael Bay (BAYYYYYY!!!!!!) heads up a production company called Platinum Dunes which churns these bad-boys out at an alrming rate. Today’s film, The Amityville Horror, was one of the many horror standards that received a face-lift from Michael “Ooohhh, Pretty Colors” Bay, and all I can muster is a resounding sigh…
We know the story by now. The Lutzes, George, Kathy, and their three kids, have just moved to Long Island. They think they have found a great deal on a huge house that they could never usually have afforded. They come to find that the deal is so good because the previous owners, the DeFeo’s, were all killed one night about a year ago by their own family member, Ronald DeFeo, who subsequently killed himself immediately afterward. The Lutzes don’t like the idea of being in a house where so many murders took place at first, but the deal is just too good. Once they movie in, strange things start to happen. Their daughter, Chelsea, suddenly begins to talk to an imaginary friend named Jodie, which happened to be the name of one of the murdered DeFeo children. Things start moving by themselves, including refrigerator magnets that spell out violent threats to the family members. And George Lutz begins acting very standoffish and defensive, complaining of how cold it is upstairs and taking to the basement, which was incredibly similar to the behavior of one Ronald DeFeo. Will these ghostly, otherworldly forces end up doing in the Lutzes? Will George, who begins hearing voices and becomes significantly angrier the longer he stays in the house, end up just like Ronald DeFeo? Just what is going on with this freaky Long Island home?
This is another one of those horror movies I hate, which just happen to be the kind that Bay custom tailors for the world. You know what I hate about it? Well, you see, its kind of ha- BOO!!!!! Did I scare ya? Bay, and his patsy director Andrew Douglas, like to scare people with obnoxious editing tricks and loud noises. I don’t know about you, but that pisses me off, and I’m getting sick of the whole process. Nobody remembers that kind of scare. It’s ephemeral and boneheaded, and I know that the “scary” parts of this movie will be just one of the many things I forget about it.
The Amityville Horror is another in a long line of remakes that are competent but dull, technically proficient but empty. When one takes away the originality factor in such a formula, one also takes away the spontanaeity,which is ever-so important for a horror movie because a horror movie relies on suspense. That is not to say that I do not appreciate the effort at all. Ryan Reynolds, who plays George Lutz, is a fucking bull, and his eventual mental breakdown from the ghosts that inhabit the Amityville house is creepy because the man looks like he could turn me into blood soup with his fists. And, considering the only people with him in the house are his wife and his kids, it really toys with your emotions. The special effects are indeed top notch, evoking a number of upturned faces from me while I watched this in the dark. Also, the lean nature of this movie (a breezy 90 minutes) keeps it from leaning on references to the original movie or any pretensions for too long.
But it’s not enough. It’s not enough to make it its own movie, which is what a remake needs to be, stand or fall. The same could be said of any of these new Platinum Dunes remakes, and hopefully people will figure that out soon enough to put Bay in the poorhouse. But until that glorious day comes, another $20 million goes to brief edits of ghosts and the loudest BOO! sounds you can imagine with The Amityville Horror, and it gets 4 1/2 freakishly buff men out of 10 for its efforts.
Keep an eye peeled later today for my review of possibly the dumbest movie I have ever seen, Face/Off!