Here we are, once more with another addition to the Amityville franchise. Although I feel horror fans may be slightly surprised by the execution of AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING and here is why:
“A desperate single mother moves with her three children into the notorious, supposedly haunted, real-life Amityville house to try and use its dark powers to cure her comatose son. Things go horribly wrong.”
First and foremost, I want to bring to light the actors chosen for this film. Cameron Monaghan (“Gotham”, “Shameless”) plays the comatose brother and son, James. Although he spends most of his screen time staring eerily and blankly, his work shouldn’t be passed over. I’m personally a fan of his character Ian on Shameless so I was greatly curious to see his performance take flight in this new chapter of the Amityville series. He definitely hit the creepy nail on the head. The distraught and self-loathing sister, Belle, played by Bella Thorne (Disney’s “Shake It Up”, The Babysitter) makes great efforts to play the victim, although in a way you do feel a bit of her pain as she reveals why her brother was in a coma, even if I thought it was a stupid reason. Lastly, the mother Joan, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Hateful Eight) gave what I felt was a mild performance for a mother dealing with a child in a coma. Oh, there’s also some brief screen time from Kurtwood Smith (“That 70’s Show”, Robocop) who plays James’ doctor, which was a pleasant surprise. To sum it up, I didn’t absolutely hate the actors or the characters they played.
The plot, which I think was what I enjoyed the most about the film, was surprisingly original. The film completely finds a home within the ever popular ‘Haunted House’ genre, and I was surprised to see that the typical backstory tropes connected with these films didn’t fall into place like I expected. This movie is conscious of itself which is the one thing about the plot that I really did enjoy. Belle finds out from friends what the house is known for and that’s when her suspicions begin to grow that there may be something evil looming. I also fully expected some sort of backstory of a car accident explaining James’ state of being, and that ended up not being the case at all. As things start to become creepier and James starts to ‘come alive again’ so to speak, Belle starts to uncover the dark past of the house, which is well know and doesn’t need an explanation.
As for the scares in this film, well, they were cheap. A pitfall of this movie is the sole reliance on jump scares which is something I generally have a strong distaste for. This is also something that I feel is an unfortunate trope in the horror genre as of late. There was a lot of CGI used in the effects which unfortunately I felt were pretty atrocious; however, I can see a younger generation of fans really buying into it. With a PG-13 rating, it was exactly what I anticipated. Also, the same things happen, just like in every other addition to this franchise. Possession and killings begin to take form and help establish general tension for the viewer.
Now, while I wouldn’t have typically jumped at the opportunity to check out something I’d anticipate disliking, I was actually kind of excited to see how this would all play out, especially with such an odd mix of actors chosen for the film. The run time for the movie is actually much shorter than I was expecting, running roughly at an hour and twenty seven minutes; however, that’s a good thing because any longer and this movie would have been a total piece of trash.
Being a fan of the original Amityville Horror as well as the 2005 rendition, I didn’t find AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING to be at all necessary but it was fun regardless. If you fancy the haunted house genre and can appreciate the history laid out by the original film, you’ll find some appreciation for this movie. I think this film will find great success at young teen sleepovers and can be a good segue into darker and overall better horror films.