Amityville: The Awakening begins like every other Amityville movie does: by reminding the audience of the real-life basis of the story. The film uses footage from news reports of the original Amityville murders, before jumping 40 years later to introduce Belle (Bella Thorne) and her family, the latest poor saps to move into the haunted house. As is always the case, strange things start happening around the house, mostly surrounding Belle’s comatose twin brother. What at first seem like signs of a miraculous recovery soon prove to be something much more sinister.The most novel element in this movie is providing some reasoning behind a family moving into this terrible house. It is completely stupid reasoning, given what the characters are supposed to know about the events that occurred in that home, but it is reasoning all the same. It at least gives a flimsy pretense for the family staying within the house even after a succession of events that clearly indicate that they should be getting out. But that is not at all enough to justify the existence of this movie, which is poorly constructed and desperately lacking in scares.The film exists within a world where everybody knows about the Amityville house. It even goes a step further than that by having its characters acknowledge the existence of previous movies about the property and the incidents that occurred within. At one point, the characters are actually watching the 1979 film. Given all this in-world knowledge, one would think that the plot would move a little quicker, with the characters armed with enough information to make the story go a little differently. But no, things go the way they usually do, the film biding time with empty jump scares before heading into a completely standard climax.The thing about most of the scares in this movie is that they all share the same exact rhythm. Any time anything strange is going on, one can expect the same thing to happen: a quick cut to something mildly startling, before cutting to Belle in her bed, waking up to find it was all just a dream. The film doesn’t capitalize on the history, and still runs through many of the same beats of discovery, with the main character slowly learning things that the audience already knows. If it had gotten to the reasoning quicker, it might have been able to tell a much more interesting story.There just isn’t much to recommend here. The movie seems much more interested in shooting Bella Thorne in various tight outfits than in creating any compelling scenes. There is so much male gaze in this movie that it starts to seem more sinister than anything going on in the story. In the lead role, Bella Thorne mainly seems confused, her character constantly complaining about things but rarely able to do anything about it. Jennifer Jason Leigh brings a few interesting notes to an intensely stupid character. But this doesn’t acquit her of her role in this mess.It might bear mentioning that Amityville: The Awakening actually wrapped production all the way back in 2015, but has been floating around unreleased for a couple of years. Having seen the film now, it’s easy to see why. This film couldn’t possibly have tested well with audiences, and it bears all the signs of producers trying to salvage a troubled project. It goes all the way up to the ending, where voiceover tells of the vague fate of the characters, without actually resolving one of the interesting questions posed by this new context. And then it just ends, the film wisely terminating before it gets into any more trouble.
AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.