By PHILIP WUNTCH
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Watching "The Amityville Horror" is about as enjoyable as attending a Halloween party hosted by people you can barely tolerate.
You'll listen to inane chatter. You'll be able to predict all the evening's surprises. You'll witness fantasies of blood and slime. You'll keep looking at your watch.
What you won't be is scared. There's one mildly exciting scene involving a little girl on a rooftop. But whatever snickering, laughing and howling you do will be from derision and not terror.
"The Amityville Horror" is the newest, clumsiest link in Hollywood's chain of remakes and horror flicks. It's a totally unnecessary remake of the critically scorned 1979 movie that ranked as one of James Brolin's few box-office hits. The premise remains the same, although incidentals have been changed.
A picturesque home in Amityville, Long Island, was the site of a 1974 mass murder, which explains why George Lutz is able to buy it at such a bargain rate. George is the resolutely good-natured new husband of Kathy, a young widow with three children. Soon the Lutz clan is haunted by ghosts. George turns more and more belligerent, and daughter Chelsea starts acting weirder and weirder.
Why, oh why?
Horror movies traffic with fantasy, but the best remain true to their own fantastical sense of reality. "The Amityville Horror's" conclusion is a screaming disappointment. Glad as you are to see it end, you'll want more explanation.
Music video director Andrew Douglas makes his feature debut with an adequate visual eye but little sense of cinematic rhythm. Everything is overdone. An early scene with an understandably nervous Realtor has the self-consciously arch manner of a drawing room comedy. A scene in which a frightened priest attempts to perform an exorcism almost plays like slapstick.
The two leads, Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, suffer almost as much as the audience. Reynolds strives to keep a straight face during his character's most over-the-top moments, while George just tries to make sense of her role as the largely passive wife.