Amityville Horror is one that I have always had in my consciousness as a horror fan of definitely being one of those that really pushed the "Based on a True Story" angle. (Was there a tragic and horrific murder that occurred in the house? yes. Was there supernatural goings-on? Eh, all I know is that there are still people living in the house to this day and even decorating for Halloween, although sadly those cool windows have been replaced (Reportedly to deter gawkers.) Despite my dislike of True Story framing, it did feel like one of the iconic entries into the horror genre, so I finally got around to watching both the 1979 original, and the 2005 remake.
I know the popular outlook is to dislike remakes on general principle, but the 2005 remake is just...much better all around than the original 1979 one. I have enjoyed performances from both James Brolin and Margot Kidder in the past, but...wow this was not an example of their finest work. Also, they had all the chemistry of a wet noodle while trying to convince me they were a loving and passionate couple excited to be in their new home. And let's not even get into the awkward gratuitous partial nudity thrown in because...it was a horror movie in the 70s and Margot Kidder agreed to one exposed breast, I guess. The kid actors are...I'm sure they were perfectly nice kids, but just exactly what you think of when you think "annoying and stereotypical kid actors in a film" The entire pacing just didn't work for me, too much felt contrived without ever really making me care about the characters or the stakes. Maybe because it was used so effectively in the remake (which I watched first) but it felt like the boathouse was set up in foreshadowing , and then just...left as a thread that didn't really get woven into the narrative.
In the remake, the pace of everything just works better. I have to wonder if the time and metaphorical distance from the "True Story" gave the filmmakers more freedom to focus on telling a good story, and not worry about hewing as close to what was presented as the truth. Real life does not often present a tidy and compelling narrative. The kids received better direction and are more likeable, which ups the stakes, because we care about them, and therefore worry about them. The boathouse is effectively used as almost a character in and of itself. My favorite thing is the characterization of George Lutz (played by Ryan Reynolds.) He so clearly undergoes a personality change brought about by the house, instead of being about two small steps from being an abusive asshole from the beginning. (*cough* The Shining *cough* *cough* so so many other haunted house/possession movies with a male lead *cough*) It's a change that makes it that much more disturbing, chilling, and heartbreaking in turns.