The Amityville movie series is one of those franchises that just won’t give up the ghost, it doesn’t seem to matter that in the almost forty years since the original movie was released that none of them have been particularly good, or even that profitable as it’s one of those franchises that hopes that brand recognition will be enough to overcome the stigma of past failures and thus bring in enough ticket sales to at least compensate for their modest budgets. In the horror genre this is not a unique marketing strategy. Now with Amityville: The Awakening being the tenth entry one can assume it will never stop as the producers of this series seem to love failure.
Amityville: The Awakening is one of your typical troubled productions as it was originally supposed to be called Amityville: The Lost Tapes and was to move the franchise into the found-footage subgenre with a reporter trying to uncover the house’s secrets, but then after several delays that idea was abandoned and the standard haunted house tropes were put back in place with once again another family moving into the notorious murder house. The family this time out consists of teenage-daughter Belle (Bella Thorne) her little sister Juliet (McKenna Grace) and Bella’s twin brother James (Cameron Monaghan) who is in a persistent vegetative state due to a tragic fall, and finally there is their widowed mother Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who seems a bit off the rails with false hope. The wrinkle here is that Joan is completely aware of the nature of the house and her reasons for moving to the murder house provides the movie’s ludicrous twist.
Belle is the film’s protagonist and it’s mostly through her eyes that the horror unfolds, though little Juliet does get one of the film’s better jump scares in a film just littered with endless amounts of fucking jump scares, but what makes the movie stumble is that we can’t really relate to her. The film spends little time setting up her character, her background motivations are not revealed until almost the final act and when they are it’s too little too late, and worse is the fact that actress Bella Thorne seems to have a real hard time coming across as scared or even sympathetic. Then the movie has the audacity to have us believe she’s never heard of legend of the Amityville murder house yet this movie takes place in a world where the James Brolin/Margot Kidder movie from the 70s and the Ryan Reynolds remake exists. Belle is depicted as a somewhat Goth misfit yet somehow we are to believes she’s never even heard of The Amityville Horror? At one point two friends she makes at her new school bring over DVDs of the movies to watching during the houses supposed witching hour.
Amityville: The Awakening does have some cool atmospheric moments, when the sound track isn’t pounding musical stings with the accompanying jump scares; we do get a nice moment when neurologist Dr. Milton (Kurtwood Smith) is attacked by a swarm of flies in a clear homage to the flies attacking Rod Steiger in the original, but then the movie doubles down on its lameness by having it turn out to just be a vision. In fact most of the horror moments in this movie are revealed to be either visions or nightmares and we don’t get any real physical manifestations of the evil, instead the movie takes the route of Amityville II: The Possession and it’s all about demonic forces controlling a teenage boy into going on a family murder spree.
The greatest crime Amityville: The Awakening is guilty of is being incredibly boring, it’s not even so bad it’s good as it’s just so bland and generic. I will not get into spoiler territory here but the motivations behind the mother’s reasons for moving into the murder house are not those of a grieving woman desperate for any kind of help, as the movie would like us to believe, her actions are of someone who is either clinically insane or vastly stupid. For a horror movie to work you must be on the side of the protagonists but between vapid and uninteresting Belle and her cuckoo for Coco Puffs mom we’ve really only got little Juliet to feel bad for and sadly the film treats her more like a prop than an actual character. With this tenth entry in the franchise director Franck Khalfoun fails to bring anything new to the table, nor much in the way of scares either, which makes this one horror fans should just skip. It’s not even worth the rental fee.