Amityville: The Awakening Blu-ray Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Blu-ray released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Written and directed by Franck Khalfoun
2017, 87 minutes, Rated PG-13
Blu-ray released on November 14, 2017
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Joan
Bella Thorne as Belle
Cameron Monaghan as James
McKenna Grace as Juliet
Kurtwood Smith as Dr. Milton
It’s been 40 years since the events which took place at 112 Ocean Avenue, also known as The Amityville Horror house, in Long Island, New York, where Robert DeFeo murdered his family. Belle (Bella Thorne), a teenager full of angst, and her family move into the infamous address. Completely unaware of the notorious locale, except for her mother, Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Belle and her siblings, Juliet (McKenna Grace) and James (Cameron Monaghan), who has no brain activity and is bed-ridden on life support, are slowly affected when strange occurrences start to unfold in their new home. On top of the family drama, especially her mother’s obsession with James, Belle endures adolescent trials and tribulations. Not only is she transferring to a new high school, but she’s now known as the creepy girl who lives in the Amityville house. Is the house evil, or is Belle starting to slowly lose touch with reality?
The latest installment in a long line of Amityville flicks surpasses many in the pack, but still isn’t an amazing film. One thing Amityville: The Awakening is: entertaining. Director Franck Khalfoun does a solid job moving the story along from the opening exposition to the overused but excellently executed “meta” trope/storyline, through the anti-climactic ending. When one of Belle’s friends shows her the DVD of the original The Amityville Horror, there is pure nostalgic bliss. And that’s just the appetizer. While Belle and her friends plan to watch the film at 3:15 a.m. (that’s when the weird shit starts to happen), one of the characters brought along some of the sequels and the remake. What ensues after this glorious scene, well, you’ll have to see on your own. Going back to the direction, there was never one moment where I was completely taken out from the cinematic experience, and that speaks volumes about the cast and crew.
In correlation with the competent direction from Franck Khalfoun is two other crucial elements: a well-written script and an ensemble of players with visible and fluid chemistry. The script, written by Khalfoun himself, is not groundbreaking by any means. What it successfully does is take a long line of Amityville lineage and crafts a playful and fresh screenplay. The self-aware dialogue between characters about the mythos of Amityville is probably the most alluring to horror buffs. Hearing Amityville being discussed as if you’d chat it up with some buddies after watching a movie feels right—the metafiction aspect works. Other bits of writing are more powerful in retrospect. When the younger sister asks Belle, “How come mommy doesn’t love you anymore?” the resonance from the line delivery by McKenna Grace and the ghastly facial expression on Bella Thorne demonstrates raw emotion. Jennifer Jason Leigh does a fine job by adding a major creep factor, as a mother with a boiling pot of of stirring sentiments. Amidst a squabble with her daughter she exclaims, “God gave up on us sweetheart and I gave up on God.” You want to dislike her, proving a role well played. Also creeping out viewers is Cameron Monaghan as James, who is sometimes bed-bound and sometimes hiding in closets. Another amusing addition is Kurtwood Smith, better known as the father on That 70s Show. His role is small, but significant. He is the main reason the mother uproots the family; to be closer to James’ neurologist. It’s odd seeing him as a quack, rather than making cracks at the stoner cast of the sitcom he’s known for.
In contrast to all the positives done in trivial dashes throughout Amityville: The Awakening there is a lack of viciousness, which eventually leads us to a lackluster ending. These two aspects damper the film as a whole, but doesn’t defeat it. The buildup surrounding the ensuing evil doesn’t pan out to be anywhere near as detrimental as in previous sequels. The rating is PG-13, and films like this and (but more importantly) Happy Death Day are proof that the medium can work. Any why not? Let the youth be horrified! Although the narrative carries without the gore, the film would’ve benefitted from some visual aid. Give the gorehounds a little blood spatter, guts, dismemberment and carnal mayhem to polish the house. Eventually, the finale arrives and viewers are left with an ambiguous ending, which leaves us with less thought-provoking questions and more head-scratching wondering.
This is perfect for a night of Netflix and chill with the significant other who isn’t into the genre. You get a contemporary haunting with an Amityville twist that is accessible for all audiences (over 13 years of age, that is). It’s a mixed bag here, folks. My expectations were surpassed, which may have been due to early reviews panning the film. But hey, it’s an Amityville sequel. How much can one really expect? Many will dislike this entry to the long-winded franchise; but I believe it does hit some strides of success, just crossing the line of being average. Amityville: The Awakening is a fun, entertaining haunted house flick and I recommend it.
Video and Audio:
Amityville: The Awakening is presented in 2.39:1 and Dolby Digital sound. The dark scenes look brilliantly lit, which is a major issue when watching these contemporary films; especially when employing a shaky cam. The cinematography is poignant, especially when Cameron Monaghan creeps at night, lurking in the shadows of the home. The demonic look on his character pops from the dark staging and his figure is not hidden, due to the quality Blu ray transfer.
The audio is nothing special, due to a lack of strong soundtrack and score, although the dialogue can be heard clearly.
Featured on this disc is The Making of Amityville: The Awakening, which is five minutes of quick interviews with no in-depth look at the actual making of the film. Weak.