Amityville: The Awakening
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, Cameron Monaghan, Jennifer Morrison, Kurtwood Smith
Amityville: Amityville: The Awakening happens to be the tenth installment of the Amityville film series. Based on the grisly murders that took place at the infamous 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island, the film franchise has been on a consistent downward trajectory ever since the first part aired back in 1979. A string of dreadful sequels and a remake have followed, all of which have only contributed to denting the reputation of the original Amityville Horror (undoubtedly, the most watchable of the lot).
This tenth effort may appear more decent than the others in the series, but that isn’t necessarily saying very much. While the acting doesn’t seem all that bad, the narrative fails to elicit one moment of fright. Horror relies on tension-building and sound, and unfortunately for Amityville: The Awakening, there are so few moments that frighten you, that it feels more like a family drama of sadness and loss with one or two instances of something untoward thrown in.
The story is told in the form of an endless string of clichés. You’ve seen it before, in almost every haunted house film ever made. A family moves into 112 Ocean Avenue. A mother, her two daughters (one is 7, and the other is 17), and her comatose son. Soon enough, the boy (who is paralysed, and hasn’t regained consciousness after his accident two years ago) starts exhibiting changes.
The mother doesn’t mention the house’s unlucky history to her older daughter, but the latter gets to know anyway. Their dog keeps barking at seemingly invisible things throughout the place. Doors and windows open and shut by themselves, and whispers are heard every now and then.
The next thing you know is that the son has regained partial consciousness. He is able to communicate with the family with the help of a computer that converts his speech to text. Is it really providence or something more sinister at play?
Amityville: The Awakening derives quite a bit of inspiration from the original (the swarm of flies, the clock striking 3.15, and so on) in order to make an impact, but it fails to strike fear. It doesn’t take a jaded horror junkie to be unperturbed by this latest attempt at keeping alive the Amityville film franchise; even newbies to the genre will not be looking away or covering their ears in fear. Most, if not all horror films of today, are either heavily inspired by the classics of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, or rely on oft-repeated scare tactics that seem to play on loop.
One of the reasons that aforementioned period was so successful was because a character’s psychology played a formidable role in creating a disturbing narrative. If contemporary films use that as a cue, and add on to it, instead of revealing the demon or ghoul or ghost too soon, they will give themselves a chance to make an impression.
The building of tension is another aspect that separates a good horror flick from the bad: it is perhaps that tension, and not the apparition’s face or voice, that holds the key to freak audiences out of their wits. Amityville: The Awakening adds another unnecessary part to a franchise that boasts of only one watchable film. God forbid more get made.