A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Amityville Horror contains a first sequence where a young man shoots his sleeping family in their beds; a mild drinking scene at a restaurant; a sex scene between married couple George and Kathy (her nude back is shown); repeated scenes of George turning increasingly mean, violent, and scary-looking; an axe attack on the family dog; and a final sequence where he chases Kathy and her three kids with a shotgun and axe. Scary effects -- stormy nights, stalker cameras, and jump-editing -- create a chilling atmosphere. George and Kathy use strong language (repeated uses of "f--k").
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR begins with a prologue about the first bloody murders. Cut to one year later, when George (Ryan Reynolds) and wife Kathy (Melissa George) move in with her kids Billy (Jesse James), Michael (Jimmy Bennett), and Chelsea (Chloë Grace Moretz). As soon as they move in, menacing voices tell George to kill his family. Chelsea communes with the ghost of the dead daughter, who talks her into a dangerous rooftop climb. Complaining that the house is always cold, George moves into the basement to be near the furnace. He starts yelling at the children and punishing them excessively. George's personality changes are evident, but he returns to his old, pleasant self whenever he leaves the house. Kathy calls in a priest (Philip Baker Hall) with holy water, but he flees in fear, leaving her to cope with the demons and her raging husband.
Is it any good?
Though Ryan Reynolds turns in a convincingly ominous performance, edged with dark humor, this remake is erratic and intensely violent, especially against children. The updated scary effects -- stormy nights, stalker cameras, and jump scares -- create a chilling atmosphere that surpasses the original film's notorious cheesiness.
But nonsensical plot holes overwhelm any scene-by-scene effectiveness in The Amityville Horror, as the characters make frequent bad decisions (leaving the children alone in the house, or with a babysitter they don't know), and fall victim to shoddy transitions between scenes. It's also unrealistic (and annoying) that Kathy puts up with George's growing viciousness at home, considering he's as nice as can be when he's away from the house.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about haunted houses like the one in The Amityville Horror. How do these stories address fears of relocating, old houses, and seemingly inexplicable mass murders? How does this version reinforce the children's concern about accepting a new father and feeling disloyal to the dead father?
Families might also discuss the movie's representations of troubling extended family relationships (stepfather who turns abusive and then murderous), ineffective religious agents (a priest is frightened by the house and abandons the family), and the mother's confusion at her husband's erratic behavior (afraid of him herself, she allows him to threaten her children).
What is the appeal of horror movies? How does this one compare to others you have seen?
For kids who love scares
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