Director/Screenplay – Franck Khalfoun, Producers – Jason Blum, Daniel Farrands & Casey La Scala, Photography – Steven Poster, Music – Rob, Visual Effects Supervisor – Jamison Goei, Visual Effects – Engine Room (Supervisor – Dan Schmit), Ingenuity Engine (Supervisors – David Lebensfeld & Grant Miller), Legion Studios (Supervisor – James David Hattin), MFX-LA (Supervisor – Chris Zapara), Rez-Ilusion & Scarecrow VFX (Supervisor – Joshua Bryer), Special Effects Supervisor – Jeff Miller, Makeup Effects – Howard Berger & Greg Nicotero, Production Design – David Lazan. Production Company – Blumhouse/Panic Ventures/Baron Films.
Bella Thorne (Belle Walker), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Joan Walker), Cameron Monaghan (James Walker), McKenna Grace (Juliet Walker), Thomas Mann (Terrence), Taylor Spreitler (Marissa), Jennifer Morrison (Candice Walker), Kurtwood Smith (Dr Ken Milton)
Joan Walker moves into a new house in Amityville with her two daughters, the teenage Belle and the younger Juliet. The reason for the move is that the house is closer to a top-notch neurology clinic so as to get help for Belle’s twin brother James who is in a vegetative state following an accident. Belle begins to experience spooky phenomena around the house. At school, she learns that the house they have moved into is the famous Amityville Horror house. As James starts to make a miraculous recovery, Belle comes to believe that a malevolent force is possessing his body.
The Amityville Horror (1979) was a reasonable hit when it came out, gaining a certain fascination due to its claim to be based on a true incident (something that was later revealed to be a hoax). This led to a number of sequels and other films of increasingly slimmer connection to the original. These include Amityville II: The Possession (1982), Amityville 3-D (1983), Amityville: The Evil Escapes (1989), The Amityville Curse (1989), Amityville 1992: It’s About Time (1992), Amityville: A New Generation (1993), Amityville: Dollhouse (1996), the official remake The Amityville Horror (2005), The Amityville Haunting (2011) , Amityville Asylum (2013), Amityville Death House (2015), Amityville Playhouse (2015), The Amityville Legacy (2016), Amityville: No Escape (2016), Amityville Terror (2016), Amityville: Vanishing Point (2016), Amityville Exorcism (2017) and The Amityville Murders (2018), while the parapsychological investigation into the house is also featured in The Conjuring 2 (2016).
Amityville: The Awakening comes from the near ubiquitous Blumhouse who have been having great success in recent years with the Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge and Ouija films (see below), The director is the French-born Franck Khalfoun, a former Alexandre Aja associate who previously made the Aja-produced and written likes of P2 (2007) and the remake of Maniac (2012), as well as i-Lived (2015). The film has lurked in limbo since it shooting completed in 2014 with no less than seven different release dates being announced and then changed. It was long enough for Cameron Monaghan to go from a supporting player here to gain fame as the embryonic Joker on tv’s Gotham (2014– ). Not to mention for the name of Harvey Weinstein that prominently pops up in the credits to go from an industry leader to utterly reviled.
Amityville: The Awakening emerges as a better film than you expect given the problems it had in release. It’s not a great film or even too much more than average on most counts but at least it charts better than the majority of tawdry abovelisted efforts that come with Amityville in the title. Franck Khalfoun’s scares are routine and by the book for the greater part – mysterious shapes and figures flitting on the periphery of the frame, momentary glimpses of an undead Cameron Monaghan, characters popping-up wearing pig masks accompanied by shrieks on the soundtrack. On the other hand, the film does have some amusingly meta moments, like when Bella Thorne decides to host her friends sitting down to watch the 1979 original in the house at the same time that Ronald DeFeo is supposed to have conducted the murders.
The most interesting part of the film is when it comes to Cameron Monaghan as the comatose brother who slowly starts to respond once in the house. As the mother, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s performance comes with an interesting ambiguity, including a possible dream sequence where she seems to be in the room with son Monaghan caressing her naked body, and the revelations she knew about the house’s history all along and chose it after deliberately abandoning belief in God (an aspect that you wish had been brought out more). On the other hand, the effective build up of mood often has its payoff cut by the turn to schlock like a swarm of flies all disappearing into neurologist Kurtwood Smith’s mouth or Bella Thorne’s undoing of the oxygen tube intercut with a flash fantasy of a zombified Cameron Monaghan jumping off the bed to attack her, yelling “You’re the one who’s going to fucking die.” It is something that leaves Amityville: The Awakening sitting just between potential effectiveness and schlocky.
Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company have produced a number of other genre films including:- Hamlet (2000), Paranormal Activity (2007) and sequels, Insidious (2010) and sequels, Tooth Fairy (2010), The Bay (2012), The Lords of Salem (2012), The River (tv series, 2012), Dark Skies (2013), Oculus (2013), The Purge (2013) and sequels, the tv mini-series Ascension (2014), Creep (2014), Jessabelle (2014), Mercy (2014), Mockingbird (2014), Not Safe for Work (2014), Ouija (2014) and sequel, 13 Sins (2014), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Unfriended/Cybernatural (2014), Area 51 (2015), The Boy Next Door (2015), Curve (2015), The Gallows (2015), The Gift (2015), Jem and the Holograms (2015), The Lazarus Effect (2015), Martyrs (2015), Visions (2015), The Visit (2015), The Darkness (2016), Hush (2016), Incarnate (2016), The Veil (2016), Viral (2016), Get Out (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), The Keeping Hours (2017), Split (2017), Stephanie (2017), Bloodline (2018), Cam (2018), Delirium (2018), Halloween (2018), Seven in Heaven (2018), Truth or Dare (2018), Upgrade (2018), Ma (2019), Relive (2019) and Sweetheart (2019).