JUNE 3, 2007
One of the rudest people I’ve ever encountered in my life was at a screening of the Amityville Horror remake in 2005. Some asshat (not a teen douche, this guy was about 60 years old) was sitting in between two empty seats. It was pretty full, so I asked him if he could move over one so me and my wife could sit together. He refused. “Are you saving it for someone?” I asked. “No. I’m tired, I don’t want to move.” Actual response. I had a choice: I could go get an usher and ‘tell’ on him, OR I could say “Thanks, asshole,” and look elsewhere. Readers of this blog should know my unending love of profanity, so needless to say, we had to sit in the front row, which is about 50 feet closer to Philip Baker Hall that anyone should ever be. I hope that guy got run over and/or beaten to death on the way home.
Anyway, it was one of the rare times I was seeing a remake without having seen the original, a practice I usually avoid. I remember seeing the Dawn of the Dead remake, and on the way out I said “Wow, I surprisingly liked it almost as much as the original,” and someone near me said “there’s an original?” Oh good Lord, how I wanted to toss him out the window. But since I don't care much for haunted house movies, I never had any strong desire to see either one of them anyway (it was a free screening) so I let my 'rule' slide.
Two years and some change later, I watched the original. And… I still don’t like haunted house movies. There are some exceptions (Poltergeist is one) but for the most part, the idea of a house full of moving objects, doors shutting themselves, etc, just isn’t that scary, and even less interesting. One of the things I love about Halloween was how the Annie character was essentially in a haunted house movie, only we as the audience were watching it from another perspective. We got to see that it was actually the Shape making plants fall down and doors close. But things happening for no reason? Zzzzz. Of course, some have explanations but they are usually stupid (why would a long dead Indian take the time to move your chairs around?). And, unless you’re Jan De Bont or William Malone, your ending is just… people leaving. Not that I have any sort of soft spot for a giant black swirl of CGI, but at least it’s SOMETHING.
But, I will give this one a pass for James Brolin. He is amazing in this. He’s not a sympathetic character at all: he yells at kids, slaps his wife, he even chops wood like an asshole, but then instantly redeems himself by risking his life to save the dog (as opposed to the remake, where the poor pooch got axed by Van Wilder). Yeah! Also, when he’s all sick he looks sort of like Christian Bale in The Prestige. Sadly, he does not explain how to do the Transported Man.
Back to the lack of sympathy for the lead – this is a problem a lot of haunted house movies have, including Kubrick’s version of The Shining (the Garris version corrected this): The ghosts or force or whatever turns the lead into an asshole almost instantly, giving the audience no time to give a shit about him. In the Garris one, Weber didn’t go apeshit for like 2 hrs (6 hr movie). But here, like the 1980 Shining, our only reason for caring about him is because of the actor playing him. But you can’t assume everyone knows who James Brolin is. And someone, somewhere, has no idea who Jack Nicholson is (poor sods! That means they haven’t seen MAN TROUBLE!). Those are things you gotta keep in mind.
You should also just make a different type of movie, because I don't like haunted house movies.
What say you?