40 years after a brutal murder took place at a house in Amityville, New York, a family moves in. The mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) wants things to be normal for her two daughters (Bella Thorne and Mckenna Grace) in spite of the medical condition of her son (Cameron Monaghan).
Given this condition, it makes little sense that he would be in a house and not a hospital, but we can let it slide. It is the reason why the family moves to the house in the first place, and it is an excuse for a jump scare or two, so we have to let it slide.
Is the sarcasm clear, here? If not, that’s fine, because there is much more to discuss.
The Amityville: Awakening exists in our world. Not the fictional world following the events of The Amityville Horror but a world in which that film exists. We know this because a supporting character (Thomas Mann) shoves it in our face, as if the film is pimping some Blu-Ray remaster of the classic horror film.
Characters also watch the film, after Mann shows and explains the film, its sequel, and its remake. For meta-horror, it’s lazy. Or it’s pandering. Or it’s…marketing?
Either way, the film decides to hammer home this point about the film’s place in reality with more vigor than it has while attempting to draw out characters. The film has its startle points, some more inspired than others, but these occur around characters with nothing to them.
As much as the film might benefit from casting Leigh or Mann, they are given so little to do that it feels a waste. Thorne provides a more serviceable performance here than in The Babysitter, but there isn’t enough there to hang an entire movie on.
Amityville: The Awakening is currently free to watch on Youtube and Google Play (and will be until Nov. 8, apparently). This is perhaps the best way to view this film: with no stakes, perhaps on the tail-end of a drunken Halloween weekend when your threshold of acceptance for unsurprising, boiler plate scares is lowered. When you can forgive the film for its tediousness, its distracting score, and its ineffective use of brand-name marketing.
To this latter point, the film feels like it was an original script that was repurposed with Amityville name-recognition by a shoddy rewrite that tossed in some self-aware references and exterior shots of the house. Either way, the film would have suffered in the wake of its obvious mediocrity, but without the Amityville name it likely would never have seen an audience in the first place. It would have been better for it.
Amityville: The Awakening: D+
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)