Saturday, October 14, 2017

Film Review—Amityville: The Awakening (2017)

Amityville: The Awakening (Review)
United States/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Google Movies
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"The skeleton of a good movie is here, but most of the great parts appear to have been removed to create a dumbed-down, PG-13 jump-scare extravaganza."

A single mother moves her three children, including her bedridden son, to the infamous Amityville house.

Amityville: The Awakening is not really a sequel to any of the films in the series. In fact, the previous movies are mentioned in this one. So, you don't have to worry about watching those to watch The Awakening. The plot follows a small family: mother Joan Walker (Jennifer Jason Leigh), daughters Belle (Bella Thorne) and Juliet, and Belle's bedridden, brain-dead twin James (Cameron Monaghan). Forty years after the infamous Amityville murders, this family moves into the Amityville house—and only Joan knows its history. Belle eventually finds out and things start going bump in the night. Then, James begins responding. His brain activity returns and he miraculously makes progress. At the same time, the supernatural occurrences at the house begin to increase in frequency and severity. So, Belle races to save her family and tries to stop history from repeating itself. There really isn't much to say about the plot. It has some interesting ideas, but it doesn't really build on any of them. It led to a predictable ending that felt rushed and lazy, too.

Amityville: The Awakening was clearly a troubled film. Its years of delays could tell you that. Watching the film actually shows it, though. The plot is thin and it's often all over the place, which leads to a rushed, disjointed feeling. There are things that feel like they were cut short or tacked onto the film as a last-minute addition, such as the involvement of Belle's new friends. She makes friends at school, but they're only in the film for exposition, which is disappointing. These characters could have been used to expand the plot or to create unique, suspenseful situations—but they're not. In fact, most of the school segments are inconsequential. They don't even serve to develop Belle's character!

Speaking of characters, all of them are annoying. From the beginning of the film, Joan actually feels like the villain of the movie. This is because, like Belle, the plot doesn't spare any time to develop her or anyone else. So, their behavior comes off as irritating and obnoxious instead of reasonable. In terms of horror, this film solely relies on its jump-scares. A handful of the jump-scares are decent, most are forgettable. The lack of suspense causes most of the jump-scares to fail miserably. They happen out of nowhere and that may surprise you, but they won't scare you. The jump-scares were at least creative in films like Insidious and The Conjuring. Here? They're random, boring, and lackluster. I like the setting of the film, but it is underutilized. Although it doesn't allow for much character development, the fast pace was also appreciated.

The acting can be hit-or-miss. Bella Thorne was decent. She doesn't really have the presence of a leading lady, though. She might turn out to be a great actress in the future. Jennifer Jason Leigh often overacted her scenes, which is why she comes off as the villain so early in the film. Cameron Monaghan doesn't really get the chance to shine, but he wasn't bad. One of my biggest complaints about this film is the poor lighting. This movie has a lot of nighttime scenes and I found most of them were too dark to actually see. I watched this movie in a solid setting, the room wasn't completely dark, but it shouldn't have been this bad. I haven't had this issue with most movies, either. I actually really liked some of the music. The film was written Franck Khalfoun, the director of the excellent Maniac remake. Khalfoun fumbles in both the writing and direction, but I can see it being a studio problem. The skeleton of a good movie is here, but most of the great parts appear to have been removed to create a dumbed-down, PG-13 jump-scare extravaganza.

Overall, Amityville: The Awakening is a mediocre film. The story is thin and disjointed, the horror is too reliant on jump-scares, and the cinematography was bad. However, if you're into supernatural horror movies and you like the Amityville setting, this functions as a decent time-killer. It's not the worst film out there, but it is a disappointment.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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