Based on a true story. Well, yeah, I suppose so – but how much of it is true? It is doubtful that even 1/3 of what they show us in the new version of The Amityville Horror is based on the facts of the case. I am certainly no expert, but what is established – and what is known – is that there was a family murdered in the house. And that a new family moved in. And moved out 28 days later.
This new telling of the tale is produced by Michael Bay – the same producer/director who brought us that Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake back in 2003. That was his “monster” movie. This is his “haunted house” flick. Unfortunately, the missing ingredient is that we don’t have a scary house. The only times that the house is genuinely creepy is when the camera isn’t moving, or just has a slow lingering shot on some appliance or air vent, and the sound design is subtle. Just enough to get under our skin.
But, this is a modern haunted house film. And that means, we need to see the ghosts. In all their gory glory. Lots of blood and brains and nasty spatter. It adds to the shock value (when you turn a corner and suddenly see a girl with the back of her head blown off), but it’s not a genuine “horror” fright. It’s this type of cheap trickery that culminates in taking a bit of interesting backstory (the whole Indian torture thing), and makes it into I Know What You Did Last Summer meets Candyman. Yawn.
There are some good parts in the film though – some of the action setpieces are tense, and the whole thing is very nicely shot. Yeah, so it looks good and sounds good. Big deal, I guess… the music by Steve Jablonsky is playing a bit of a split personality as well – some times it’s nice and melodic (there’s quite a nice theme for the family), but other times it’s just hitting the scares, and using a lot of crazy distorted strings and whatnot.
With Joel Silver and Michael Bay going hog-wild on his remakes (House on Haunted Hill, Thirteen Ghosts, House of Wax, Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and bad cheeseball scare flicks (The Ring 2, Darkness, Boogeyman), the horror genre is in dire need of a genuine boost. I can only hope that films like Dark Water (at least, the Japanese original was good!) can help revitalize it. It’s sad that for MGM’s last film, they go out with a cheap scare.