WE goes inside ‘The Amityville Horror’

By Marcus Leshock

“The Italian Job.” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” “The Thomas Crown Affair.” “Psycho.” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” “Ocean’s 11.” “Get Carter.” “Godzilla.” “The Haunting.” “Rollerball.” “King Kong.” “Dawn of the Dead.” And now, “The Amityville Horror.”

“There are worthy remakes and unworthy remakes,” said Ryan Reynolds, star of 2005’s “The Amityville Horror.” “I wouldn’t remake ‘The Omen’ or ‘The Exorcist.’ ‘Alien’, let’s not touch that. ‘The In-Laws,’ either – oh, wait.”

Reynolds carries over the sense of humor from his role as Van Wilder in “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.” In “Amityville,” he reprises James Brolin’s classic performance as George Lutz from the original 1979 film.

Based on a debatably true story, the film depicts the first 28 days of the Lutz family’s stay in their new Amityville home. The family who lived in the home one year earlier were shot and killed in their sleep (a documented fact). After moving into the home, George allegedly became possessed by the house and attempted to murder his own family – a deed the home supposedly directed him to do.

While 1979’s “Amityville” is known for its creepy vibe and less for “jump out of your seat” scares, the remake fashions itself like the slasher films today – equipped with gross corpses that come out of nowhere and shrieking violins to accompany them.

“The original was good for its time, but it certainly did not age well,” Reynolds said of the original film. “I think this remake was a worthwhile endeavor.”

Perhaps the change in atmosphere in the remake has a bit to do with a new director, Andrew Douglas, and superstar producer/director Michael Bay.

“One of the hard parts of a horror film is creating the plausibility of it,” Douglas said. “After the first day or even fifteenth day, the house is clearly haunted – why don’t they leave? It’s a question you have to answer as a director.”

“Amityville” marks Douglas’s first big studio film. His earlier works include a partially self-funded documentary titled, “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.” Needless to say, an experience like “Wrong-Eyed Jesus” pales in comparison to directing for Michael Bay.

“It’s tough on a studio film. There are a lot of people who tell you they know better than you,” Douglas said of his experience. “By comparison I will say that I was not free, I am working within a bigger structure. Like every director, I would have liked a lot more freedom. But if the film does well …”

Well, Douglas will get his freedom. A lot of the film’s success at the box office will be determined by how much the audience buys the plausibility he attempted to create.

Numerous psychics have done readings of the actual Amityville house but none like Lorraine Warren. She and her husband spent time in the house, which she claims holds the “most evil she’s ever felt.” Warren’s experience and knowledge of the supernatural arts were used as research in the new film.

A quick glance at the Web site of the actual town of Amityville (www.amityville.com) will lead to a special section dedicated to the Lutz home and the tragic murders that occurred there.

A family currently lives in the home and has for several years. According to the site, the only “unnatural thing they and the subsequent owners have encountered is the invasion of their privacy and property by scores of sightseers.”

When asked to comment on the evil spirits’ kind behavior to all other families except the Lutz’s, Warren replied, “I’m not too sure of that, sir.”

So were Lutz and his family really haunted by the ghosts of the murdered family, or was the struggling entrepreneur just trying to capitalize on a tragedy that once occurred in his new home?

Decide for yourself – “The Amityville Horror” opens in theaters Friday.