Amityville: The Awakening FILM REVIEW
AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Screenplay by Franck Khalfoun
Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, McKenna Grace, Cameron Monaghan, Thomas Mann, Jennifer Morrison, Kurtwood Smith
Rated PG-13 for strong horror violence and for language
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
**1/2 out of *****
Photo: Dimension Films
Belle, played by Bella Thorne, checks on her comatose brother, James, played by Cameron Monaghan, in the latest entry in the long-running AMITYVILLE franchise, AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING.
Time has not been kind to the nearly forty year old AMITYVILLE franchise. Over the decades the brand has been diluted by numerous sequels, more than twenty films carry that moniker, by much more effective haunted house films and by the fact that the events that started it all have been debunked. The 1979 film was based upon the "true accounts" of the the Lutz family and their time in the infamous house in Amityville, Long Island. It is a fact that four years prior an entire family was murdered in the house and evil forces were to blame. It's these evil forces which have been exploited over the years and now a new film, AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING, enters the pantheon at 412 Ocean Avenue and it is surprisingly not as bad as it could have been.
There hasn't been a decent AMITYVILLE based sequel since 1982's AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION. The original actually doesn't hold up well at all so in truth there hasn't been a solid AMITYVILLE HORROR film, period. In the last decade, many of the direct to video sequels simply gave up trying and were barely even Asylum level and worse still insulted the intelligence of viewers by trying to pass off a home as being the iconic one that has been etched in the memories of many. Right off the bat THE AWAKENING gets it right by recreating the infamous facade and the interiors strongly resemble the original films. It feels like you are right back to where the first films were shot. It turns out there's a reason for that as, unlike its predecessors and to the best of my knowledge, this new film's connection has the virtue of having never been tried and it proves somewhat intriguing.
The film stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, Cameron Monaghan and Mckenna Grace as the family who moves into the infamous home. The family garners immediate sympathy as we learn that one of them is in a vegetative state due to a tragic accident. Monaghan has the juicier part as the brother in a coma. Since arriving at the house James goes through some rather dramatic changes which Monaghan plays quite effectively. Thorne is the center of the story as she tries to get to the bottom of the history of the house and how it's effective her family. She is actually at her best in the dramatic scenes particularly those between her and her brother, James. Leigh is quite good as the matriarch of the family but unfortunately an unnecessary and ill-advised third act plot twist ultimately steals her thunder.
Khalfoun not only directed but wrote the new film; he previously directed films such as the MANIAC remake and P2. You can tell he was making effort to create a reverential horror film based on the mythology the world is so familiar with. The film does feature a number of obligatory yet effective jump scares and some cool moments. However, as previously mentioned there were so many factors at play which brought the film down several notches. Once you figure out and understand the film's time and place in history it's not hard to be engaged in the story but once Khalfoun begins to dip his toes in the well of all that came before it becomes familiar and often by the numbers.
As AMITYVILLE films go AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING is easily the best sequel since AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION. Admittedly that's not saying much since that film was an over-the-top EXORCIST ripoff. Khalfoun populates his film with likable characters and you may have a genuine dislike for the torment which the house puts one of the family members through. If not for the unnecessary plot twist, the blatant CGI and some overtly telegraphed moments this could have been a decent film but in the end it's a nice try but comes up a bit short.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal