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New Release Review (VOD) - AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING review
A new family takes residence in horror's most infamous home.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Franck Khalfoun

Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, Mckenna Grace, Cameron Monaghan, Thomas Mann, Kurtwood Smith

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING poster


The history of Amityville: The Awakening is as troubled as that of the New England home at its centre. Initially planned as a found footage movie, the film was eventually shot in more conventional form back in 2014. The original January 2015 release date was put back to April 2016, but poor test screening responses led to reshoots and a new release date of January 2017. Yet again it was pushed back, this time to June 2017. With that release also cancelled, the movie is now being unceremoniously dumped on to Google Play, where it can be streamed free of charge.

What's interesting about Amityville: The Awakening (and believe me, there's nothing else interesting about Amityville: The Awakening) is that it's neither a remake nor a sequel. Writer-director Franck Khalfoun's film takes place in the real world, where not only did Ronald DeFeo Jr murder his family in 1974 in their home at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, but author Jay Anson also wrote his 1977 book on the subject, The Amityville Horror, leading to a series of films beginning with the 1979 original.

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING

Despite dressing like someone who buys all her clothes and accessories at Hot Topic, 17-year-old Belle (Bella Thorne) has somehow never heard of The Amityville Horror (not even the 2005 remake!) and is shocked when her enthusiastic new school pal, Terrence (Thomas Mann), a reject from a Scream sequel, breaks the news that Belle's new home has inspired one of the horror genre's longest running franchises.

Belle's mother Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose presence here tells you this was shot before her recent comeback in collaborations with Tarantino and Lynch) has kept secret the history of the seemingly innocuous Long Island home from Belle and her kid sister Juliet (McKenna Grace). This adds further tension to the already strained relationship between mother and daughter. Belle and Joan disagree over the treatment of Belle's twin brother James (Cameron Monaghan), who lies in a vegetative state, a machine keeping him 'alive'. Belle believes the right thing to do is to turn off her brother's machine, while Joan is convinced her son will miraculously return to health.

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING

Lo and behold, Joan's prophecy appears to come true when her son experiences an err...awakening, seemingly regaining some of his cognitive senses. But is it really James, or has the spirit of Ronald DeFeo Jr taken charge of the teenager's body?

While I've seen worse horror movies proudly ushered into cinemas, Amityville: The Awakening is nevertheless as mediocre as the genre gets. The premise of a possessed house seizing control of an ill teenager is lazily lifted from 2009's The Haunting in Connecticut, and it's probably no coincidence that writer Daniel Farrands was involved in both projects. There's a notable lack of set-pieces, with very little bumps in the night for a movie set in the world's most evil-infested home. We get the occasional dream sequence, but the film is so awkwardly edited that the movie's oneiric moments often appear to be left open-ended, segueing confusingly into the more grounded parts of the story.

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING

Thorne, likely cast for her willingness to spend most of the movie in her knickers, should be commended for giving the closest the film has to a committed performance, but her character is one-note and never seems half as perturbed by the events around her as she should be. Leigh has never been worse, sleepwalking through the film with the irritated look of an actress who has been called back for one too many reshoots.

As second-rate a reboot as Amityville: The Awakening is, we'll no doubt see worse horror movies in cinemas over the Halloween season, and its availability for free streaming will likely make it a popular choice at teenage slumber parties this October.

Amityville: The Awakening is available free of charge on Google Play from October 12th.



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