Amityville: The Awakening sees the Walker family moving into the infamous house at 112 Ocean Avenue. Shortly after settling in, Belle and her younger sister Juliette begin experiencing unexplainable phenomenon. Belle learns of the home’s history and wonders if the forces of evil that influenced Ronald DeFeo Jr. are at work, once again.
The film is helmed by Franck Khalfoun (Maniac 2012). It stars Bella Thorne (Scream: The TV Series), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), and Cameron Monaghan (Vampire Academy).
Amityville: The Awakening has been scheduled for release a multitude of times since 2014. And it ultimately went to home video without getting the wide theatrical release it had originally been slated for. In addition to several date shifts and indefinite drops from Dimension’s release schedule, the film has undergone title changes, and was even recut to achieve a PG-13 rating. No amount of retooling, editing, or rebranding could save this film from itself.
There were a multitude of different things that drove me nuts about Amityville: The Awakening. The first was that it features the tired cliche of a bratty, selfish high school girl who has a chip on her shoulder about moving to a new city and having to start over at a new school. That idea has been done to death and then done some more. It would be nice if writer/director Franck Khalfoun had tried a different approach and maybe given Belle (Bella Thorne) a more dynamic character arc. As it stands, she’s very difficult to warm up to and I was indifferent, at best, about whether or not she survived the events of the film.
The performances all come across as very stilted an unconvincing. Belle spends a large portion of the runtime practicing resting bitch face and Jennifer Jason Leigh is clearly phoning it in as her frazzled mother. Belle’s friends are two-dimensional characters that quite literally vanish after being used for a few scenes of expository dialogue.
Amityville: The Awakening tries to take a similar approach to the recent The Town that Dreaded Sundown redux, where the original film is referenced and even shown in the new film. But it doesn’t work nearly as well here as it did for The Town that Dreaded Sundown. It plays more like a missed opportunity this time around. In The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014), the use of the original put audiences in the mindset that its predecessor was just a movie but the events of the redux were really happening. I never forgot, not even for a fleeting moment that Amityville: The Awakening was a movie. A really bad movie.
The CG effects are laughably unconvincing. The scene with the doctor and the flies is horrendously executed. The insects move too cleanly and the whole scene comes across looking totally unnatural.
Another frustration I had was the lack of cohesion between the set design and wardrobe departments. Belle’s wardrobe is in direct opposition to the set design of her room. She dresses like she just walked out of a Hot Topic store in 1997 but she has posters for St. Vincent and The Pixies on her bedroom wall. It feels like the set designer and the wardrobe department were working with completely different character bios.
Ultimately, the only thing I liked about this film is that it was under 90-minutes long. Any longer and I don’t think I could have mad it through. Amityville: The Awakening is now available on DVD and Blu.
WICKED RATING: 1/10
Director(s): Franck Khalfoun
Writer(s): Franck Khalfoun
Stars: Bella Thorne, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Release: November 14 (DVD and Blu)
Studio/ Production Co: Miramax, Blumhouse