I know it’s not easy to muster up enthusiasm for yet another Amityville sequel but this latest addition has at least two difficult to resist things going for it: it stars the always compelling JENNIFER JASON LIEGH and it’s currently absolutely FREE on GOOGLE PLAY. Another ace up its sleeve is that the action takes place at the legendary pumpkin-eyed house on 112 Ocean Avenue (or at least a faithful recreation of it) rather than following a cursed inanimate object that managed to escape from it. That may not seem like much. but I will forever be a little unnerved by the mere sight of that creepy Dutch Colonial and am so relieved not to have to follow a lamp, mirror, clock or dollhouse to another address. This new edition could surely use some major renovations (The lighting is often inadequate, there’s not enough JENNIFER JASON LEIGH and the editing makes you feel like it’s been pruned to the stem with a weed-whacker) but it manages to be fairly entertaining anyway. It’s nowhere near the high point of the franchise (that would be AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESION (1982), of course!) but it’s leaps beyond the franchise low point (I’ll never accept you as canon THE AMITYVILLE CURSE (1990)!) Oh and did I mention, it’s FREE?
AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING takes place in a wacky universe in which characters are able to watch the original 1979 film on TV (after referencing its sequel and rejecting its remake) that is somehow also a dimension where the house is super affordable and the famous “High Hopes” sign lingers unsold on ebay in the basement. I suppose it’s possible that Goth girl Belle (actress, singer, Cocoa Pebbles cover model BELLA THORNE) has never heard of the Amittyville legend before moving into her new home but it seems highly unlikely. How could anyone say “I’m moving to Amityville” without hearing “THE Amityville?” in response. I mean, can you even type “Amityville “ into your computer without be greeted by those wicked windows staring back at you (I just tried and the answer is no)? Anyway, the ”reality” we’re placed in is hard to swallow and even though it’s not a deal breaker, it tends to dismantle the film’s credibility. Where the film works best is in the family dysfunction department; Belle’s twin brother (CAMERON MONAGHAN) is lost in a coma that she feels personally responsible for and a rather convincing cloud of sickness, grief and existential dread hangs over the family. It’s this aspect of the film that makes it difficult to shrug off completely. LEIGH could sell me the Brooklyn Bridge if she wanted and I think if the film spent more time mining her emotional dilemma and less time courting the teen crowd, there would be a more effective result.
You know how AMITYVILLE 3-D (1983) is mostly balk-worthy lunacy but then there’s that super haunting scene where TESS HARPER encounters the soaked, blank-eyed ghost of her daughter LORI LOUGHLIN and her frenzied denial and grief is palpable afterwards? So goes AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING in a way. It’s mostly hoarding familiar creaky house, jolt scares but there’s a somewhat legit subterranean stream of pathos as well. When the Evil of the house begins to infest and rejuvenate Belle’s comatose brother, it’s easy to sympathies with the family’s reluctance to care that the divine intervention is coming from below rather than above. I also feel I should give this flick some props for at least alluding to my favorite underused Amityville character Jodie, by way of a startling pig mask (in a perfect world Jodie would have an entire spin off franchise of her own). Anyway, no matter how you slice this ham, there’s no denying it is worth the paltry price of FREE and even an only partially successful Amityville movie is a welcome Halloween treat to yours truly. Check it out HERE and my apologies in advance, you should know better than listen to someone who thinks AMITYVILLE 4: THE EVIL ESCAPES (1989) is the bee’s knees (or the fly’s thighs?).