Clatto Reviews: ‘Amityville: The Awakening’


You gotta hand it to the realtors in the suburbs of Amityville, New York — they sure know how to close a murder house! They’ve been doing it since 1975 when the Lutz family purchased the Dutch Colonial with the creepy attic windows just a year after its previous residents were massacred.

Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his parents and siblings for reasons not fully known, but ranging from bad drug trip to insurance fraud to plain old daddy issues. Possible demonic possession soon captured the imagination when the Lutz family ditched the home 28 days after moving in, citing paranormal occurrences.

Author Jay Anson based his fictional novel, “The Amityville Horror,” on accounts from the Lutz family, suggesting a malevolent force dwelled inside the house and was responsible for possessing its most vulnerable residents. The book was a bestseller and triggered a series of films, including the 1979 original and this year’s “Amityville: The Awakening.”

“The Awakening” is a reboot of sorts meant to introduce the franchise to an audience too young to know the original and possibly even its 2005 remake, starring a pre-Deadpool Ryan Reynolds, while entertaining longtime fans with a few callback moments and a controlled meta approach.


The film opens with a new family moving into the Amityville house: single mom Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh), hot and brooding teen daughter Belle (Bella Thorne), little sister Juliet (Mckenna Grace), and comatose son James (Cameron Monaghan). There’s also an Aunt Candice (Jennifer Morrison) who lives nearby and is around to help however she can.

Joan has moved her family to Amityville to be close to James’ neurologist, but she has an ulterior motive: to use the house’s evil energy to awaken her son, who was brain damaged after being tossed off a balcony for confronting the guy who posted naughty pics of his sister online. The plan is a success and soon James is up and about killing people.

Fortunately, Belle’s new schoolmates make her aware of the house’s uncanny history of possessing people and warn her that her brother is especially vulnerable given his condition. As her brother grows stronger, he begs her to kill him. She’s eventually swayed, but not until the body count starts to add up quick.

The Awakening is definitely a tween fright flick. It’s well produced with soft scares that won’t keep you up at night. Don’t expect much from its seasoned players. Leigh brings chops to the table, but her role is regulated to Charlie Brown parents. Likewise, Morrison’s part is more of a cameo.


Belle’s friends Terrence (Thomas Mann) and Marissa (Taylor Spreitler) usher in the meta moments in the film and they are a hoot – i.e. Terrence’s excitement over watching an Amityville Horror movie in the actual Amityville house (the group chooses the original over the remake because remakes suck!). Sadly, the film’s meta moments are too far and in between to reach Jamie Kennedy’s level of hilarity and wit in Scream. It’s a device inexplicably abandoned midway.

The weight of the film is on Thorne’s shoulders to carry. There’s no real depth to her character – everything you need to know is on the surface and as easy to spot as her ass cheeks in tiny booty shorts (thank you, wardrobe!), but her performance feels natural enough to make her a worthy final girl.

The Awakening is written and directed by Franck Khalfoun, the man behind the insanely suspenseful cat-and-mouse thriller P2 and the awesome 2012 remake of Maniac. This film is nowhere near that level of fright, but it benefits from Khalfoun’s pacing, making it one of the better entries in the Amityville franchise.

Amityville: The Awakening is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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