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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
A Ghost Story without Chills or Thrills
by Geoffrey D. Roberts

Armed with a .35 caliber rifle, Ronald DeFeo Jr. made his way into the rooms of six family members while they slept, then brutally murdered them one by one on November 13, 1974. First he claimed the mob did it, then said his sister killed the family. Next, he stated that he did the killing -- but only in self-defense. Finally, he told the police he heard voices guiding him. That's the gruesome beginning of The Amityville Horror.

A year later, George (Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) have blended together their two families. After looking at all the houses in their price range, they find 112 Ocean Drive, a home they had not seen before. Being a contractor, George knows the house is wonderful but believes it would require some financial sacrifices. There must be a catch because the list price is below what the house is worth. Learning that "the catch" involves the DeFeo murders taking place in this enticing house, George and Kathy are not worried, so they purchase it anyway. 

Not long after moving in, precocious 5-year-old daughter Chelsea (Chloe Moretz) seems to have a new imaginary friend named Jodie who comes and goes as she pleases and insists that Chelsea keep secrets from her parents. It turns out that she is a member of the DeFeo family found murdered in the girl’s closet the year before. Under Jodie's hypnotic spell, Chelsea even climbs onto the roof of the house. Thinking her daughter is having psychiatric issues, Kathy Lutz tries to get through to her about her dangerous behavior as well as her imaginary friend, but without any luck.

Inevitably, the other children, Michael (Jimmy Bennet) and Billy (Jesse James), find out about the murders from their scantily clad and seductive babysitter Lisa (Rachel Nichols). They dare her to step into the closet where Jodie was said to have been murdered. Trapped and alone with the girl she used to hate babysitting with, the sitter is next seen in total shock on a gurney being wheeled out of the Lutz home.

As for George, he may be suffering from delusions after nearly drowning in the bathtub. He spends all his time glaring at the wall in the basement, seeing evil beings that simply are not there. It's recommended that he see a psychiatrist but he never goes. Kathy takes it upon herself to research the home and find out what is going on. Her findings are far more shocking than she ever expected. Will she be able to save her family in time?

Unfortunately, although there are some strong performances here by Reynolds, George and Moretz, the characters they play are not fleshed out enough to help us understand how or why they got sucked in and used by evil entities. 

Directed by Andrew Douglas (Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus), The Amityville Horror packs about as much punch as a children's ghost story told around a campfire. It lacks chills, thrills and horror. And, oh yes, was "Jodie" borrowed from The Ring? She certainly bears a striking resemblance to the "evil being" in that film. 

The special edition DVD contains deleted scenes, a "making of feature, audio commentary, on-the-set peeks and a photo gallery.

(Released by Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment and rated "R" for violence and terror, sexuality, language and brief drug use.) 

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