For the entire month of April, Cinefessions will be locked into The Asylum, reviewing films released by the famed studio. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout April you will get another review on a film released by The Asylum. April’s podcast will also be devoted to films from The Asylum, and you can decide which three will be reviewed right here. Today, Branden goes back to the infamous Amityville house, this time in found footage fashion, in The Amityville Haunting.
I’ve only watched a handful of films from The Asylum, and all but one – their first effort as a production company, The Killers – have been found footage. Now unlike my Cinefessions brethren, I enjoy this subgenre. Hell, I forced all the Cinefessions Summer Screams Challenge participants to spend an entire week watching these films! Though Area 407 was a big letdown, Paranormal Entity was a nice surprise in the genre. This latest entry, one of the more recent found footage films from The Asylum, falls somewhere closer to Area 407.
The Amityville Haunting is follows in the footsteps of the other Amityville Horror sequels in that it is not a continuation of the story, really, but rather uses the plot of the original film and book to tell its own story. In it, the Benson family moves into the old Amityville house because they find it extremely cheap, and it’s all they can afford. The first day they see the house, their reluctant realtor dies of a “brain aneurism”. On moving day, a mover falls down the stairs and dies. Strange events keep happening, and though the matriarch wants to move, the father insists they stay because they have no other options.
Sound familiar? If you’ve seen the original film, it should. It is practically the exact same plot, but this is presented as a found footage film instead. There are even flies, the father going nuts, and an imaginary friend. All of this, coupled with typical found footage problems, leaves The Amityville Haunting lacking.
The script is weak, the acting follows suit, and the characters are not likeable by any stretch. The dad is the definition of creepy, especially when he is punishing his attractive, teenage daughter. The mother is a whiny mess. The boy, who records everything for his “documentary”, is such a bad actor that you can’t help but hate his character. Then, finally, the teenage daughter, who has a dark past as evidenced by the fact that the family has been forced to move five times in the past year because of her behavior, is nothing more than a stereotypical teenager, always on her phone, and yelling at her little brother (who follows in his father’s creepy footsteps, recording his sister in her bedroom while she sits in a bathrobe). The youngest daughter, who sees ghosts, just an in the original and the remake of The Amityville Horror, is cute and does a fine job of talking to air, but she is pretty inconsequential to the story as a whole.
The Amityville Haunting is a little more than The Amityville Horror mixed with Paranormal Activity. The movie is under 90 minutes, but it feels much longer. Admittedly, once we get a while into the film – about 25 or 30 minutes – it picks up, and starts to get more interesting. At that point, the viewer becomes used to the acting, and the script levels out (even if that level is below average). The ending isn’t terrible at all, and there are even some decent practical effects. If one manages not to stop the movie after 15 minutes, they might be surprised by what they find. The characters never grow, but there are some interesting moments. That said, there are much better films to spend an hour and a half of your life watching. For Amityville completionists, though, this won’t be a painful experience. Unfortunately, that’s as high a praise I can give The Amityville Haunting.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.