Franchise Review: The Amityville Horror

Newlyweds are terrorized by demonic forces after moving into a large house that was the site of a grisly mass murder a year before.

Ah, here we have the inevitable remake.

In 2003 film makers Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller formed the production company Platinum Dunes. A company that started by making reboots of Horror films, “The Amityville Horror” would be their second film and reboot after “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

Now, it’s well known that I’m not a fan of Michael Bay or his films, but I am able to put my feelings aside and try to enjoy his features in the hope of being proven wrong (that is still yet to happen). This film was exactly how I thought it was going to be and that wasn’t a good thing.

In my opinion the whole thing was just a cliched mess, it did what I’d seen a million times before in haunted house films. Also the story was like someone wrote a version of how they remembered it, everything was extremely exaggerated to the point of it being annoying.

It lacked the atmosphere, the intensity and paced storytelling of the original film. It was all shiny, new and clean, no dirt and grit to it at all. It just left an empty feeling that made me just put the original back on to make myself feel better, this film was just needless.

“The Amityville Horror” remake, reboot, whatever you want to call it, just lacks in every department. It doesn’t come anywhere near as good as the original.

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

Ryan Reynolds chose not to become close with his “movie” children. He was not mean or rude to them, just very distant. So distant in fact that the children often confided to those on the set that “Ryan doesn’t like us!” Ryan said that he did not want to “fall in love” with the kids. Ryan did this so that when George Lutz started changing, he would have no trouble easing in to the verbal and physical abuse.

Just before shooting started, the body of a fisherman who had been murdered washed up on the bank of the river right near the main house.

Chloë Grace Moretz did most of her own stunts, despite only being eight years old.

Film debut of Chloë Grace Moretz.

MGM claimed the remake was based on new information uncovered during research of the original events, but George Lutz later claimed nobody ever spoke to him or his family about the project. When he initially heard it was underway, his attorney contacted the studio to find out what they had in the planning stages and to express Lutz’s belief they didn’t have the right to proceed without his input. Three letters were sent and none was acknowledged. In June 2004, the studio filed a motion for declaratory relief in federal court, insisting they had the right to do a remake, and Lutz countersued, citing violations of the original contract that had continued through the years following the release of the first film. The case remained unresolved when Lutz died in May 2006.

Ryan Reynolds wore special contact lenses in many scenes to make his eyes seem black with just a white ring around them.

Megan Fox auditioned for the role of Lisa the babysitter.

For the closet scene with the babysitter, the production crew had originally ordered in a rubber door. After shooting the scene a few times, they decided it didn’t look right, and they ultimately decided on using a real wooden door, so actress Rachel Nichols had to bang her hands on the door for two days straight while filming the scene.

(at around 33 mins) In the original script, the poster on Billy’s bedroom wall during the babysitter scene was of a different band. However, when the crew realized how long of a tongue actress Rachel Nichols (who played the babysitter) had, they decided to change it to a poster of the rock band KISS, because of band member Gene Simmons’ very long tongue.

Except for the attic windows and the vaguely Dutch Colonial style, the reproduction of the house does not resemble the actual house in Amityville as it was at the time the events were said to have taken place. Also, because of huge tourist interest in the house, the original house has been altered and is now less recognizable.

This movie was not screened for the critics.

During filming, many cast and crew members began waking up at 3:15 a.m, the same time Ron Defeo Jr. murdered his family.

On the Bio program Celebrity Ghost Stories (2008), Melissa George confirmed the supernatural feelings she had on the set when the cameras were not rolling. Also during production, she along with the rest of the cast and crew learned that the real Kathy Lutz, whose story inspired the movie, had sadly passed away before shooting was finished.

This was the last picture Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) released as an independent company. On April 8, 2005, the studio was acquired by several companies, including Sony (for a brief period), in the middle of the promotion for this movie. Several other films, including Into the Blue (2005) and The Pink Panther (2006), were already produced and set for release by MGM at the time of the buyout, and were later released by Sony Pictures.

Just as with the original film, the names of the Lutz children had to be changed to protect their identities.

Jodie DeFeo, in comparison to her older brother Ronald DeFeo Jr. as depicted in the film, is a fictional character. She is loosely based on DeFeo’s real life younger sister Allison DeFeo, who was actually a 13 year old girl at the time of her death instead of a young child as depicted here. The character is taken from Jay Anson’s novel The Amityville Horror, which had to change the names of the real people that inspired the book for legal reasons.

James Van Der Beek turned down the role of George Lutz.

While the original address of the Amityville, NY house was 112 Ocean Avenue, it was changed by subsequent owners to another number in an attempt to stave off tourists. In the movie, it’s address is listed as 412 Ocean Avenue. The numbers on the actual street only go up to 399.

Despite the fact that this was filmed in Super 35, “Filmed in Panavision” is listed in the ending credits.

The first theatrically released Amityville film since Amityville 3-D (1983) 22 years prior.

While the reproduction of the Amityville House’s famous exterior was constructed in Silver Lake, Wisconsin, many of the interiors were built on a temporary sound stage in an empty building located in a corporate park in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. The production company took out building permits in the village of Silver Lake, Wisconsin (in Kenosha County), and spent about $60,000 to adapt the historic Rustman House summer estate on the south shore of Silver Lake at Kenosha County Highways F and SA for its cinematic debut. (The Rustman fortune was earned in the Jefferson Ice company of Chicago in the harvesting and storage of ice from the wintertime lakes of Kenosha County and elsewhere, and shipping it to hotels for summertime usage and cooling before the advent of refrigeration.) The Rustman Estate consists of the “big” house. a smaller guest cottage, several farm buildings, two workers’ cottages, a boathouse, a one-lane bowling alley, and wide pastures, garden plots and wooded areas. The porch on the house itself faces west and winds three-quarters of the way around the first floor. Inside there is a smallish kitchen but a dining room that seats 18-20 guests, a large living room, billiard room, butler’s pantry, billiard room, and separate two-room maid’s quarters. On the grand staircase was a stained-glass window (now removed) featuring an Eve-like maiden offering the viewer an apple. Upstairs, a vast master suite has been created from some of the original five upstairs bedrooms, each with its own marble sink. The third floor is the attic with a turret room high above Silver Lake where Mrs. Rustman would sit and watch the ice-cutters. The Rustman House awaits its next occupants as it has been unoccupied for several years and remains protected by a chain-link fence and hidden security devices.

Directorial debut of Andrew Douglas, who had only directed music videos and 1 documentary prior to this film.

The shortest film out of all the theatrically released Amityville film’s with a runtime of 90 minutes opposed to the original The Amityville Horror (1979)’s 115 minute runtime and Amityville II: The Possession (1982) and Amityville 3-D (1983) runtimes of 104 and 105 minutes respectively.

After Amityville 3-D (1983), this is the second Amityville film to be shot in the 2.35:1 ratio.

Samuel Bayer turned down the offer to direct this movie.

Vinnie Pergola auditioned for the role of Billy Lutz.

Both Ryan Reynolds and Chloë Grace Moretz both appeared as superhero roles. Moretz appeared as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass (2010) and Kick-Ass 2 (2013). Reynolds would portray Deadpool in Deadpool (2016) and Deadpool 2 (2018).

Though the story is largely fictional (contrary to George Lutz’s claims), the factual elements of the story remain present in the films. Ronnie DeFeo Jr. murdered six members of his family on November 13, 1974, and was convicted of six accounts of second-degree murder on November 21, 1975. On December 4, 1975, DeFeo was sentenced to six concurrent 25 to life sentences. The Lutzs moved into 112 Ocean Avenue on December 19, 1975, and moved out on January 14, 1976. The rest, especially in this version, is all fiction mostly based on Jay Anson’s horror novel The Amityville Horror published on September 13, 1977, by Prentice Hall. In reality, the Lutz’s dog Harry did survive, unlike as depicted in this film.

(at around 1h 8 mins) When Ryan Reynolds’ character breaks through the wall into Ketcham’s evil sanctuary and starts to see “ghosts”, the third entity clearly resembles Gollum (Smeagol) from the Lord of the Rings. He’s even crouching very much like Gollum in his cell, complete with a few strands of hair, bright blue eyes, and loin cloth.

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