Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, Mckenna Grace, Cameron Monaghan, Thomas Mann, Taylor Spreitler, Jennifer Morrison, Kurtwood Smith, Dan Martino, Brian Breiter, Jordyn Utz
Written by: Franck Khalfoun
Directed by: Franck Khalfoun
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing horror violence and terror, suggestive images, brief language and thematic material
Running Time: 85
Date: 10/27/2017

Amityville: The Awakening (2017)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Abominable House

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This umpteenth sequel in the Amityville Horror series isn't that great, but it's surprisingly better than most of the other entries with some smooth touches and some interesting ideas and characters.

In Amityville: The Awakening, the Walker family moves into the infamous Amityville house, home of so many brutal murders. Mother Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) hopes that the change will be good for her son James (Cameron Monaghan), who is in a coma. But teen daughter Belle (Bella Thorne) is upset about having to move, and feels that her mother loves her less than she does James.

Belle meets Terrence (Thomas Mann) at school, and he introduces her to the Amityville Horror stories and movies, which she knew nothing about. Soon, the youngest daughter, Juliet (Mckenna Grace) claims to have been "speaking" with James, and then James opens his eyes and appears to be recovering. But before long the old horrors arise again.

Directed by Franck Khalfoun (P2, the remake of Maniac, etc.), Amityville: The Awakening — whose release date was postponed many times over nearly three years — actually brings a couple of ideas to the table. the poor James, lost in a coma, as well as all the stress and jealousy that this situation brings about in the family. It's a strong start, rather than some clueless family simply moving into a haunted house.

Moreover, the movie interestingly sets this story in a universe where the true story (the 1974 murders) actually occurred, and then fictional movies were made based on it. (It jokingly points out how awful the 2005 Amityville Horror remake is.) And Khalfoun's camerawork and editing is a notch above the usual noisy jump-scares we get in most horror movies.

But at every point, Amityville: The Awakening drops the ball. It never follows up on any of its ideas, never takes anything very far. It ends up feeling disappointingly simplistic. By the time the third-act climax comes, it all seems fairly pointless.

Lionsgate released this movie on Blu-ray, shortly after its delayed theatrical release. The only bonus is a studio-produced featurette, with lots of clips and staged interviews. Image quality is fine, although the movie features deliberately muted, flat colors, so nothing is going to pop. Sound is also strong, providing good scares.

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