Amityville: The Awakening is the latest in a long line of Amityville horror movies and, although it’s a watchable movie, you won’t be losing out on much if you give this one a miss.
The movie begins with some news report-type footage relating to the events that happened in the original Amityville Horror movie (1979). Then, after a short but suitably spooky close up of the house, the story picks up 40 years later, with some cheery music and scenes of a family in a car en route to the cursed house.
The family consists of a widowed mother of four, Joan Walker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her two daughters Belle (Bella Thorne) and Juliet (McKenna Grace). The fourth member of the family, Belle’s twin brother James (Cameron Monaghan), is following behind in an ambulance because he’s brain-dead and his body only continues to function because he’s plugged into a machine. If you think that makes him a perfect target for possession you are right. The Awakening is predictable right from the start and the only reason to keep on watching is to see which members of the family (if any) manage to survive the unfortunate choice Joan made when choosing a new home.
The star of the movie is undoubtedly Belle. The goth teen is the first one to notice things are not right at home and, unlike her mother, she smells a rat when her twin suddenly starts to show signs of life and soon becomes capable of communicating with the family. In one of the better scenes of the movie, Belle sneaks down to James’ room in the middle of the night. “Is there someone else in there with you?”, she asks. The answer is yes, but that comes as no big surprise and when James begs his sister to kill him, and Joan appears from nowhere, that’s not much of a shock either, but the furious mom doesn’t need to switch the machine back on because something else is keeping James alive.
When they first arrived in Amityville, Belle had no idea about her new home’s terrible history and only discovered the truth when she got a less than friendly reception from the other kids at the local high school. Then one of her new classmates told her, “It’s not you, it’s the house.” This prompted her to investigate the history of her new home and when she told her mother, it turns out Joan already knew. Later in the movie, Belle discovers the house’s gruesome past is the real reason Joan chose to move there. When her husband became ill, all Joan’s prayers did nothing to prevent his death. After James’ accident, she wasn’t prepared to make the same mistake. “God gave up on us, sweetheart,” she tells her shocked daughter, “so I gave up on God and I moved us here. Because if there is some power that can make your brother better…” Needless to say, when James does get better, things start to get a whole lot worse, so Joan’s decision to switch teams proves to be anything but a winning move.
The Awakening! It’s a good name for a movie, but this one is more likely to make you snooze. There aren’t any scenes that are going to have you sitting on the edge of your seat. Nor are you likely to jump or experience shivers running down your spine. The scene where Juliet hears a voice calling to her from deep inside her closet is probably one of the scariest ones in the movie, but the monster in the closet idea has been done again and again in horror movies. It’s old hat and is only likely to work with viewers who do not have many years of movie watching under their belts. The same can be said for the scenes that show a shadow-like presence lurking in the background and when Joan goes to investigate noises in the cellar, brandishing her dead husband’s gun, which Belle has apparently never seen before, it’s far too obvious why it’s been introduced. Anyone who is familiar with the earlier movies will be aware the Amityville house and shotguns are a dangerous mix. It would have been interesting to see an Amityville movie that handles things differently and, if a gun has to be used again, it could have been introduced in a more believable way.
If you’ve never seen an Amityville movie and are wondering what all the fuss is about, the original Horror (1979) is a far superior offering. Amityville II: The Possession (1982) is also good. Amityville: The Awakening does not compare well to either of them. The only thing that makes it watchable is the presence of Bella Thorne and, if you are a fan, you will probably want to add this one to your Bella Thorne movie collection.