Hair apparent: George
photo: Peter Iovino

Adapted from the 1979 splatter favorite that was itself based on a popular novel that was inspired by a true story, The Amityville Horror is a Xerox so tattered and faded that it's impossible to determine who's to blame for the overproduced mediocrity before our eyes. What remains certain is that Stuart Rosenberg's original was a ho-hum haunted-house thriller notable mainly for Lalo Schifrin's la-la score and star James Brolin's facial hair. The new film retains much of the original story line: A widowed mom (Melissa George) and her fiancé (Ryan Reynolds) purchase a Long Island mansion whose previous occupants were brutally offed the year before. No sooner has this none-too-intelligent family moved in than supernatural forces come out of the woodwork (literally), turning Brawny-man Reynolds into, well, the Stepfather. The filmmakers wisely keep the original's mid-'70s milieu but then proceed to neutralize the retro-ness with pricey FX. Aside from Reynolds's oft-aired abs, the only remarkable screen presence here is Rachel Nichols's slutty babysitter, who, having scared her charges with a bloody bedtime story, remarks, "Wow, I suck at babysitting." Her so-bad-it's-good vibe is one that's sorely lacking from this ploddingly sincere retread.

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