Amityville: The Awakening (2017) Review

When a single mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her three children — eldest sister Belle (Bella Thorne), her comatose twin brother James (Cameron Monaghan) and little sister Juliet (Mckenna Grace) — move into a new house, a series of creepy phenomena start to take place. Soon, Belle realises the place they live in is actually the infamous Amityville house.

During one of the scenes in Amityville: The Awakening, the movie goes meta when Terrence (Thomas Mann) asked his two fellow classmates, Belle (Bella Thorne) and Marissa (Taylor Spreitler) to choose between watching the DVD of the 1979 original Amityville Horror, the 1982 prequel Amityville II: The Possession or the 2005 remake. They, of course, skipped the remake and watched the original instead. Well, you know what critics and viewers always said about remaking/rebooting a horror classic: The original one is always the best.

But ironically enough, Amityville: The Awakening is a remake itself. A remake that basically shot itself in the foot… because it is shockingly dull. So dull that it makes me wonder why the studio even bother to remake Amityville Horror again? The 2005 version, which starred Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, was already decent enough. This so-called “modern revival”, however, feels like one of those listless direct-to-video horror cheapies used to exist during the 80s and the 90s.

French director Franck Khalfoun, whose previous credits include the underground parking-garage thriller P2 (2007) and the uniquely first-person horror remake Maniac (2012), seems like an ideal candidate to revive The Amityville Horror franchise. But whatever vision he had in this movie is largely buried with the troubled production history, which includes reshoots and constant reshuffling release date way back in early 2015. The end result that displayed on the big screen feels as if it was made by a group of studio executives. The direction is flat and uninspired. The plot, which also written by Khalfoun himself, is plagued with half-baked characters and inconsistent pacing. The movie also relies too much on cheap and random jump scares. There are little build-ups for suspense and the movie’s recut from the original R to PG-13 is so obvious with all the abrupt editing. Robin Coudert’s (credited in the movie as “Rob”) music is awfully generic like it was lifted from the free music library, while Steven Poster’s dimly-lit cinematography makes the movie looks amateurish.

Despite casting veteran actress Jennifer Jason Leigh as one of the leads, she is wasted in her role as a single mother with a mysterious intent. Bella Thorne seems lost in this movie that Khalfoun is more interested to exploit her notoriously real-life bad-girl image appearance with distracting goth makeup and skimpy clothes than her acting. Cameron Monaghan, who appears as the possessed antagonist late in the movie, is neither scary nor threatening.

If there’s one positive thing about this movie, I would say Thomas Mann’s geeky role as Terrence at least delivers a worthwhile performance.

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