A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Amityville: The Awakening is one of many movies in the Amityville horror franchise, though it ignores all the previous installments, instead following up where the 1979 original left off. There are flashbacks to the original murders, plus jump scares and other scary stuff, plus blood stains, guns and shooting, stabbing, crashing through a window, creepy bugs, and arguing. Language includes a use of "f--k," several uses of "s--t," and more. A teen girl is shown wearing tight clothes at school and very revealing underwear at home. Although the film starts off with some good ideas and is a little better than most of the others in the series, it's still not that good. Note: The movie was originally rated R but was edited to earn a PG-13 rating.
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What's the story?
In AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING, the Walker family moves into the infamous Amityville house, home of so many brutal murders. Mother Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) hopes that the change will be good for her son, James (Cameron Monaghan), who's in a coma. But teen daughter Belle (Bella Thorne) is upset about having to move and feels that her mother loves her less than she does James. Belle meets Terrence (Thomas Mann) at school, and he introduces her to the Amityville Horror stories and movies, which she knew nothing about. Soon youngest daughter Juliet (Mckenna Grace) claims to have been "speaking" with James, and then James opens his eyes and appears to be recovering. But before long, the old horrors arise again.
Is it any good?
This umpteenth sequel in the Amityville franchise isn't that great, but it's surprisingly better than most of the other entries. Directed by Franck Khalfoun (P2, the remake of Maniac, etc.), Amityville: The Awakening -- which was postponed many times over nearly three years -- actually brings a couple of interesting ideas and characters to the table. There's poor James, lost in a coma, as well as all the stress and jealousy that his situation brings about in the family. It's a strong start, rather than some clueless family simply moving into a haunted house.
Moreover, the movie sets its story in a universe where the true story (the 1974 murders) actually occurred and became the basis for the fictional movies. (It jokingly points out how awful the 2005 Amityville Horror remake is.) And Khalfoun's camerawork and editing are a notch above the usual noisy jump scares in most horror movies. But at every point, Amityville: The Awakening drops the ball. It never follows up on any of its ideas, never takes anything very far. It ends up feeling disappointingly simplistic. By the time the third-act climax comes, it all seems fairly pointless.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Amityville: The Awakening's violence. How much is actually shown? Does the (relative) lack of gory stuff make the movie any less horrific? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How scary is the movie? What's the appeal of scary movies?
How does this movie compare with the original book? The original movie? The sequels?
What is the sibling relationship like in this story? Can you relate?
- In theaters: October 28, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: November 14, 2017
- Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, Thomas Mann
- Director: Franck Khalfoun
- Studio: The Weinstein Company
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong horror violence and for language
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